WHAT would a young beef producer do if they were allowed to be a tyrant for the day in federal parliament?
That was the powerful, thought-provoking quandary posed to national finalists of the 2017 NAB Agribusiness Rising Champions during their face-to-face meeting with federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce today in Canberra.
The Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister gave 15 minutes of his hectic working day to explain aspects of his pivotal role in overseeing agricultural policy more broadly, not just the beef sector, serving in the second highest political office in the land.
“We’ve been part of the biggest turnaround in agricultural prospects in our nation’s history,” he said of the Coalition’s policy agenda, including delivering a $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
Mr Joyce asked each of the seven finalists from various states and territories, as they sat around his ministerial office table, what they’d do if they were in charge of running the nation.
Queensland NAB Cattle Council Rising Champion Kylie Stretton said her priority if she was a tyrant for the day would be to work on developing drought preparedness policies to help farmers.
WA NAB Cattle Council Rising Champion Shaun Byrnes said he’d try to do something about state based parochialism blocking the way forward to implementing reforms on issues of national importance.
That led Mr Joyce to explain how an east-west, rather than a north-south mentality was needed, and more of a northern Australia “culture”, while highlighting the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility as a means of helping to build infrastructure like ports to aid farm exports.
Tasmanian NAB Cattle Council Rising Champion Darcy Nicklason said he’d do something about trying to encourage farmers to use more efficient irrigation methods.
Mr Joyce explained how his government had allocated $2.5 billion in grants and loans towards water infrastructure projects and water policy had also been placed into the Department of Agriculture.
Other issues the rising champions said they’d address, if they were a tyrant for a day, included maintaining market access and building on transport infrastructure to support market access, like the inland rail and roads, especially in northern Australia.
Mr Joyce also spoke about the success of other government policy initiatives for the farm sector like decentralisation of government agencies into rural areas and economic improvements via Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China, Korea and Japan.
He said he’d also worked to ensure Australia’s trade relationship with Indonesia where live cattle exports are a priority was “humming along”, while the FTAs had delivered “immense” value to Australian agriculture.
The seven finalists also met with Federal Trade Minister Seven Ciobo today as part of their two-da leadership program, where the value of farm exports was also raised as a pertinent topic and the importance of expanding and maintaining market access.
The 2017 winner of the NAB Agribusiness Rising Champions award will be announced at a gala dinner on November 20 in Alice Springs.
Kylie Stretton, Queensland; Shaun Byrnes, WA; Aaron Brown, Victoria; Darcy Nicklason, Tasmania; Tom Heggaton, NSW; James Beale, NT; and James Pitchford, SA.