Next week the Palaszczuk Government will deliver its fifth budget. It is fair to say that while the government has ‘talked up’ the importance of agriculture to the state since coming to office in 2015, this has not been reflected in strategic funding commitments in the government’s most significant annual document. The important social support commitments around drought and disaster recovery are gratefully unwavering, but we have not seen enough investment in areas that will help the sector take the next step change forward.
With two-thirds of the world’s middle class expected to be living in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030, we are in the box seat to capitalise on this demographic shift and subsequent demand for high quality food and clothing. However, to take advantage of this opportunity we must address the current international competitiveness and productivity challenges facing the sector and increase investment in the longer-term enablers and drivers of sustainable and profitable intensified production systems.
Genuinely addressing electricity and water affordability, and the productivity nexus between them that governments continue to ignore, are critical foundational investments. The effectiveness of the digital economy and new technology hinges on targeted connection infrastructure funding. Strategic spending on enhancing risk management is needed to help deal with climate change as farming becomes an increasingly risky business. The underinvestment in a coordinated industry-led approach to attract and retain tomorrows workforce needs to be addressed. Some simple, low cost solutions to competitiveness challenges, such as abolishing stamp duty on agricultural insurance, also continue to be ignored.
Without targeted, deliberate action from government, agriculture will not fully capitalise on the exciting opportunities that are unquestionably there. Government must be able to see the bigger picture and invest in it, starting with next Tuesday. Our social obligation to be part of the solution to sustainably feeding a hungrier world aside, a failure to realise this potential is selling our state short, as a thriving agricultural sector is not just good for farmers it is good for everyone.