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Queensland budget: Agriculture lobbyists criticise Government as lacking vision, despite more money

Cassandra Hough, Tom Major and Jennifer Nichols, Wed 13 Jun 2018

Queensland's agriculture lobby groups have criticised the state budget as lacking vision, despite an overall rise in the amount of money spent on agriculture.

The Queensland Agriculture and Fisheries budget is $481.7 million for 2018–19, up $57 million compared to last year, and will focus on biosecurity and drought relief.

The Government had forecast that it would spend $424.6 million on agriculture in 2017/18 but will actually have spent about $470.5 million due to commitments such as the Driving Queensland Agriculture and Rural Jobs Growth initiative, the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and the Biosecurity Capability Review.

This means the 2018/19 budget for agriculture will increase by $11.2 million on the actual money spent last year.

Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) CEO Travis Tobin said, while the Government had delivered on its election commitments, this year's budget did not tackle crucial competitiveness and productivity issues that would allow Queensland producers to compete domestically and internationally.

"If we are going to achieve some exciting opportunities that are out there we need strategic intent and longer-term investment for that, and that's what we would say is the biggest disappointment," Mr Tobin said.

"By 2030, two thirds of the world's middle class will be living in the Asia Pacific, right on our doorstep. To make the most of this demographic shift and subsequent demand for food and clothing, investment in Queensland agriculture will need to intensify so we can address competitiveness challenges."

QFF also highlighted the lack of support for power price relief and telecommunications as key strategic investment opportunities that were missed.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said drought relief arrangements would remain in place with $34.6 million in funding allocated in 2018–19, which is about the same amount as last year despite drought declarations from eight local government areas being revoked last month.

"Up to $20 million will be available under the drought relief assistance scheme, and at the same time we'll invest in Queensland's drought and climate adaptation program to improve farm business capacity, seasonal forecasting and decision support tools to enable producers to better manage climate risk," Mr Furner said.



Following the Federal Government's increase in biosecurity spending the State will continue with its $43.3 million plan over 10 years to get rid of Red Imported Fire Ants, while a further $5.3 million over three years will be spent containing the spread of Panama TR-4 in bananas.

There'll be 20 more fisheries compliance officers (16 of those patrolling in the Great Barrier Reef) and additional monitoring and harvest strategies for all fisheries, with vessel tracking on all crab, net and line boats in place before the end of this year.

The government is also developing policy on the future of timber production in state-owned native forests.

It will also put $61.7 million into Natural Resource Management Groups, provide $4.2 million in fee and land rent relief on top of the drought package, and put $800,000 into maintaining stock routes.

However opposition agriculture spokesperson Tony Perrett said there was a lot of smoke and mirrors in the state budget because many of the funding announcements have already been made.

"A lot of the funded programs have been in place for some time, so it was just ongoing funding and I would describe it as an underwhelming budget," Mr Perrett said.

He criticised the $4 million allocated for a state land and tree study to assess and understand the extent of thickening and encroachment as coming "way too late".

"This sort of funding should have been in place to inform the vegetation management debate in the Parliament," he said.

"I think this is a dirty trick from the State Labor Government, the fact that they've now funded it, when they knew all along this was an issue that's been highlighted by not only by the opposition but also by various representative industry groups across this state."

ABC

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