We foreshadowed it last week, and well here we are – a Federal Election has been called and we are off to the polls on 21 May.
There will be plenty said over the next six weeks as each Party courts our vote and with a proliferation of independents and new parties entering the fray it will be easy to be distracted by big promises with little substance.
What agriculture needs now is just that, substance. A long-term vision, backed by strong policies strategic investment in practices and infrastructure that are going to support a sustainable future for agriculture.
From the Queensland Farmers’ Federation perspective, there are several key issues that are critical to the future of agriculture, and I touched on them last week.
We must get water security right if agriculture is to continue to grow. Water security and affordability is fundamental not only to a strong future for agriculture, but our communities, both rural and urban, are also depending on it. Water is too important to be used as a political football, we need bi-partisan support and a long-term plan to build water security across the state.
Biosecurity is also critical and requires and ongoing prioritisation from government, an effective plan that looks at protection, prevention, our capacity to continually manage and to respond in case of an outbreak. It remains one of the biggest risks to Australia, and just like other security policies and portfolios such as defence, needs commitment and constant attention – not merely shuffling the same funding around in circles. We saw this most recently with the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak. Putting out spot fires is not enough to build the strength and capacity we need in biosecurity.
Both parties have commenced the campaign period raising workforce as a key election platform. Attracting and retaining staff to successfully run your farm enterprise has become increasingly difficult and has been exacerbated by the housing shortage.
Agriculture needs a commitment to workforce security and growth and again, this requires a workable strategy that includes addressing the regional housing crisis and workforce development that will meet the needs of all farming enterprises and commodities that make up our agriculture sector.
We need the detail on policy announcements and a willingness to work closely with industry. Agriculture is a significant contributor to our state and national economy and is the heartbeat of regional Australia. Our farmers lead the world in innovation and adaptation and this sector needs more than short term media announcements. Is it too much to hope to see some long term, well considered strategic policy that is reflective of the economic importance of the sector to our economy and our communities?