The release of the terms of reference for an Agriculture
Competitiveness White Paper comes at an interesting time for the
The Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP,
announced last week the terms of reference for an Agriculture
Competitiveness White Paper. The goal of the paper is stated to be
to "generate jobs, impact farmgate returns, investment and
economic growth" in agriculture.
The paper, to be released in late 2014, will provide the
Government with an opportunity to engage and consult with
agricultural industries and outline its own policy for the
development of this sector. Agricultural exports have been
identified by the Liberal Party as one of the pillars of its
so-called "5-Pillar economy" policy intended to diversify
the Australian economy away from its reliance on mining
That rejection highlighted for many the tension between the
Government's objective, highlighted in these terms of
reference, of encouraging investment in the industry to drive
innovation and competitiveness and the resistance within some parts
of the community to foreign investment in this industry and the
structural changes required to create a more efficient market
The Government would no doubt like to use this opportunity to
reaffirm its commitment to welcoming foreign investment in this
industry and to demonstrate that, despite the rejection of the
Graincorp acquisition, Australia really is "open for
business". But it may also provide a voice for many to express
their concerns through the public consultation process and only
serve to highlight the divisions within the community around some
of these issues.
Interestingly, the terms of reference cover much of the same
ground as the Labor Government's comprehensive National Food
Plan released earlier this year. That paper undertook an extensive
review of all elements of food production, supply education and
marketing. One of the goals which that paper outlined was to
increase agricultural productivity by 30% by 2025, including by
actively encouraging both domestic and foreign investment in the
Evidence before a Senate Estimates hearing last month suggest
that the initiatives arising out of the National Food Plan are on
hold pending the development of the Government's own
Agriculture Competitiveness White Paper.
It would be a shame if the actions arising out of that paper are
ultimately not pursued at a time where it appears most commentators
agree that there are enormous opportunities for agribusiness with
the right policy settings and direction.
While consultation with industry is generally to be welcomed,
there are now a number of State and Territory food and agribusiness
policies being developed, in addition to the National Food Plan and
the Government's own "2030 Vision for Developing Northern
It seems there is now a need to pull together these different
policies as quickly and efficiently as possible into concrete
policies and actions so that positive steps can be taken to take
advantage of the opportunities in this sector before they pass.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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