A number of recent Federal Government policy developments have raised concerns for Queensland farmers. In particular, farmers are working through the details of two specific announcements to fully understand the potential implications for their enterprise and for their communities.
Firstly, Minister Plibersek indicated last week that water buybacks are likely to make up at least one third of water recovery under the Government’s revised Murray Darling Basin Plan, signalling a change to the current legislative cap on buybacks which had been set at 1500GL.
Calls are mounting for the Federal Government to explain how the socio-economic impacts of lifting this cap will be balanced for communities. Will the buyback-free options of over 1,000GL that have been provided to government as alternate options be considered before changes are brought before Parliament? What engagement will occur to give communities a voice in this process? These are valid questions.
The caps and protections put in place were a reflection of the maximum volume of buybacks that were estimated communities could reasonably be expected to withstand. Committing to buybacks making up at least one third of water recovery would be devastating for communities and a very costly exercise for taxpayers with a price tag likely exceeding $3 billion.
Secondly, this week, Minister Tony Burke announced the government’s next tranche of industrial relations reforms which will add to an already burdensome and confusing workplace relations legislative environment for many farming enterprises.
Confusion around the ‘same job, same pay’ component of the legislation, how ‘surge work’ will be considered, and the introduction of new right-of-entry powers for union officials to demand a business’ payroll records, are just some of the concerns being raised by businesses.
During a time of rising cost of living pressures and a slowing economy, what we need is an uplift in productivity and support for businesses to make it easier to employ people, not harder. Businesses of all sizes are already struggling to navigate what has become an incredibly complicated industrial relations system, without these proposed additions.
Farmers across Queensland continue to strive to improve on-farm productivity and efficiencies, but the agricultural sector needs government policies that support their efforts. Farmers understand the complexities that underpin the economic challenges ahead and are simply asking for transparent engagement with the sector to ensure policy direction considers the importance of maintaining a sustainable food, fibre, and foliage production system for future generations.