The federal opposition remains tight-lipped about its plans for Australia’s $81 billion farming industry, should it form government.
- Shadow agriculture minister won’t say whether Labor still plans to phase out live sheep exports or set a farm gate milk price
- Julie Collins says Opposition policies on climate change, regional housing and telecommunications will help rural sector
- Labor has yet to announce a specific agriculture policy ahead of the federal election
With the federal election due to be called in days, shadow agriculture minister Julie Collins declined to say whether Labor would phase out the export of live sheep – a policy it adopted until the election in 2019.
In an interview with the ABC, Ms Collins also did not say whether Labor would pursue re-regulation of the dairy industry, putting a floor on the price of farm gate milk.
“In the last election, we had a policy to get the ACCC to look at this issue,” she said.
“We have spoken to dairy farmers and will make announcements on what we want to do in the coming weeks.”
Asked if Labor had any policies directly related to livestock production, agriculture or horticulture, Ms Collins said: ‘Clearly the issues that farmers are raising with me are most important to them, number one is always climate change because there is no doubt that climate has an impact on what happens, on our farms”.
But Ms Collins has yet to say how a Labor government would boost biosecurity or directly address a shortage of agricultural workers.
Ms Collins said she understood Australian farmers needed an additional 10,000 to 20,000 workers.
Collins is keen to keep his wallet
The MP for Franklin said Labor had already announced several policies relating to agriculture, including a commitment to license hire-labour companies.
“There’s our Powering Australia climate change policy, which will create five out of six of those 600,000 jobs in the Australian region,” Ms Collins said.
“They will of course benefit farmers with real action on climate change.
“We presented our regional housing policy, our regional telecommunications policy, our jobs and skills Australia [policy].
Ms Collins lives on the east coast of Hobart and was first elected to Federal Parliament in 2007.
After a stint as shadow minister for ageing, Ms Collins was appointed shadow minister for agriculture in January 2021.
She succeeds Ed Husic and Joel Fitzgibbon as Labor Party spokesperson for agriculture in the current legislature.
“I love being the shadow agriculture minister and I would look forward to that in government, obviously it depends on the leader…I think it’s a great portfolio,” she said.
Mobile signal audit promised, but agricultural visa uncertain
Earlier this week, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese addressed the National Farmers Federation conference.
At the conference, Mr Albanese announced that a Labor government would commit $500 million from its National Reconstruction Fund specifically to agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
The $15 billion fund, intended to help Australia recover from the pandemic, would provide loans and equity for projects aimed at stimulating the economy.
Mr Albanese has also committed $400 million to expand mobile phone coverage along roads and for area homes and businesses, and a $20 million audit of mobile phone coverage is due to begin this year. .
The audit would use Australia Post trucks to determine where the mobile signal could be improved.
Asked at the conference whether Labor would keep the government’s new agricultural visa, Mr Albanese did not answer.
“It’s not real right now,” he said of the visa.