ELECTION: Candidates reveal plans for agricultural sector
HINKLER and Wide Bay's candidates have outlined bold plans for the Fraser Coast's agricultural economy if they make government.
The Chronicle asked your candidates the following questions about the future of the agricultural industry, how they would ensure it would be protected and what changes they would like to see to improve its current standing.
1. Wide Bay and Hinkler have often faced long dry spells and been drought-declared on numerous occasions. Farmers have pleaded for better water security options for years, including off-stream storage facilities and pipelines from neighbouring dams to water their crops. What are your plans to ensure farmers will have better access to water security if elected?
2. The Federal Budget contained numerous incentives to support farmers through disaster and drought, but there are concerns this may not be enough to support Australia's agriculture sector by 2030. What drought funding options will you bring to the table or lobby for on behalf of the region's farmers?
3. Given recent local disasters have led to farmers being financially crippled due to losing significant crops before harvest, what incentives will you present to ensure farmers have a financial safety net in cases of floods/cyclones/fires etc?
4. There has been a growing trend of cane farms across Queensland being converted into higher-yielding crops like macadamia and avocadoes in recent years. How will you ensure the future of the cane industry is protected in Wide Bay and Hinkler?
5. Bio-fuels from sugar cane have been discussed as one of the potential economic futures for the region. Given the Hinkler and Wide Bay regions are primarily known for their sugar cane production, do you have any plans to capitalise on this potential expansion into bio-fuels?
Richard Pascoe (ALP)
AS THE candidate for Hinkler I know the importance of our agricultural farms in the area and water security for the farmers.
A Labor Government will help farmers build defences to drought, lift productivity and secure sustainable profitability while also funding nation building road and rail infrastructure.
Our Productivity and Sustainable Profitability Plan will be developed by an expert panel including scientists, economists, research bodies and farm industry leaders. The Panel of Guardians will be in place within 60 days following an election and will report to Government within 12 months.
It will be funded on-Budget: $100 million each year, the same amount of money the Morrison Government proposes to draw from its Future Drought Fund, no tricks, no spin, just real money.
David Norman (IND)
AS HINKLER'S elected representative I would work closely with dry-croppers and irrigators to understand their immediate and long-term water needs and pursue those with both federal and state government.
As was witnessed from recent years of both droughts and floods, both the Federal and State Governments don't do enough to help our primary producers affected by natural disasters.
I would call an urgent review into the need to divert a large portion of our foreign aid expenditure to our own people in need. There also needs to be a serious look at the effect some free trade agreements have on our own producers and ensure the prices paid to Australian growers can sustain viable business. Alternate markets like bio-fuel that also help support local growers also certainly need support.
Aaron Erskine (FACNP)
THE FACNP wants to drive a water infrastructure boom across Australia. Water security is one of our major priorities. A sustainable farming sector and food security is not possible unless we can mitigate the effects of drought where possible.
Drought funding and assistance is a band aid solution to permanent drought mitigation in areas where water infrastructure has not kept up with agricultural demand. I will lobby for increased assistance to the Farm Household Allowance and further support for power subsidies where pumping water is an option.
Australia currently does not have energy security, we are reliant on fossil fuel imports. Bio-fuel is a sustainable solution that creates additional demand for cane crops and reduces our dependency on foreign fuel and oil.
This increases the market demand ensuring a future for sugar cane production.
There is huge growth potential for the bio-fuel sector. With government mandates in place. I would like to see Hinkler on the front foot and embrace the flow-on effects throughout our local economy.
Amy Byrnes (AJP)
THE Animal Justice Party recognises the need for water security challenges to be addressed as a matter of urgency. If elected, I will advocate for redirecting government funding away from animal agriculture towards crop farming, ensuring better water security for crop farmers in the region.
First and foremost, we need to face the realities of what is causing the droughts and to take action against the climate emergency if we are to mitigate more regular and severe weather events into the future. Animal agriculture and its associated land clearing is a scientifically recognised main contributor to climate change, and one that has no place in Australia's future.
Incentives for animal agricultural farmers involve moving to sustainable, drought-appropriate farming, which not only includes financial aid, but also infrastructural and educational support. It is more secure to have crops that can be stored in food banks than in keeping animals who have to be put down. We will also advocate to ensure the appropriate infrastructure for crop farmers, such as stores for seed, are available.
With climate change fast upon us, we need to rapidly transition to a carbon free energy infrastructure. As we do this, it is important to assess all energy sources' impacts on animals and the environment before seeking to expand its production. If elected, I will seek to invest in the development of new clean, animal friendly energy technologies, looking to Hinkler for opportunities where these investments can lead to the development of new industries and jobs in the region.
Moe Turaga (IND)
AGRICULTURE is the bread and butter of our region, with it comes all the workforce and industries that we see here now. Australia needs to invest in a more sustainable water management system that is affordable and manageable. We should never have water shortages if we apply mega-desalination of the water around us. We need to review our crop management Australia wide so that we are not draining it through mega mines and cotton farms.
Hinkler delivers somewhere around 30 per cent of our nations sugar, and upwards of 60 per cent of national Macadamia and Avocados. But we need to invest Super Fund to counter major natural disasters. It is a key platform of mine that our farmers are looked after.
It's great to see our farmers diversifying to new crops that are on the national and international markets its shows innovation and growth. I don't believe sugar will be pushed aside by local family farms, it is still a worldwide market but I believe we suffer due to the TPP agreement. We are seeing a shift to alternative marketable and healthy crops.
Bio-fuels from cane hasn't really moved forward due the lack of community education about it. People will choose what they are comfortable with and feel safe with. Maybe if the education for bio-fuel conversion for a greener energy source rather than auto fuel we may see a different approach to it.
Keith Pitt (LNP)
THE Coalition Government has committed $3.3 billion for water infrastructure through the $1.3 billion National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and the National water Infrastructure Loan Facility.
Locally, there has been funding committed to feasibility studies, including $1.2 million to fast track a feasibility study of the Gayndah Regional Irrigation Development project and $750,000 to SunWater to fast-track a feasibility study into upgrading the capacity of the Bundaberg Channel.
An investment of $6.3 billion in drought support from the Coalition Government is helping farmers and their families. A range of measures have been introduced including a $72 million drought round of the National Water Infrastructure Fund and $131 million for the Drought Communities Program to deliver infrastructure and drought relief projects.
A new concessional loan through the Regional Investment Corporation will be available for restocking and replanting and the Future Drought Fund will provide farmers with $100 million a year for projects to mitigate the impact of drought. Changes to the Farm Household Allowance farm assets test threshold from $2.6 million to $5 million will be made permanent under the Coalition.
The Coalition Government has $5m invested in the railway extension project from the Isis Central Sugar Mill through to Wallaville to open up more land for sugarcane to be processed at the mill.
Local sugar mills already generate electricity using renewable sources and there have been extensive trials and research on bio-fuels from cane waste.
Daniel Bryar (GRN)
OUR plan will deliver $100 million a year in real, sustainable and independently assessed grants to communities and business, grants that would improve water security and soil quality and better insulate farms and communities from the impact of drought.
Lets start by ensuring no CSG wells are allowed to poison the ground water, and no mines are allowed to use fresh water to wash coal. Water is a precious commodity and will become more important than oil in a decade. Open, honest and transparent management of our water resources is essential to grow our Agricultural industries.
There is nothing wrong with transition within an industry. What is required is management of the transition so that it doesn't leave late movers high and dry should the market collapse, or their product become too expensive to move to market. The big issue cane farmers should be watching out for is the production costs in Brazil, and the impact to the world sugar market
Fuel is increasingly being replaced by ethanol with most petroleum today supplied with 10 per cent ethanol. By contrast, Brazil, the other major grower of cane, has 50 per cent and 100 per cent ethanol options at the pump. Perhaps we should be looking at why their vehicles are capable of running on 100 per cent Ethanol and making moves on the demand side instead of the supply side, and determining what could be possible in the auto industry.
Tim Jerome (IND)
EVERYTHING should be done to make it easier for our farmers to drought-proof their farms.
Ensuring that farmers are not taxed on any water stored on their properties - these resources belong to the farmer who has had to outlay money to build dams and buy tanks.
I will lobby hard for our region's farmer and ensure they get a fair go and their fair share of any budget money for disasters and drought. I will lobby hard to ensure that financial aid is given in times of natural disasters to help get our farmers back on their feet and producing crops as quickly as possible.
I would ensure that the cane farmers get a fair go and the support they need to continue producing the high grade sugar cane that is produced in the area.
Bio-fuels technology needs to looked into and researched as a reliable, greener fuel and as our region is a sugar cane production area I would be supportive of any initiative in the area to produce ethanol.
Andrew Schebella (UAP)
FARMERS are the backbone of this country and we need to create the right environment to support farming and all industry that are existing and choose to expand into rural and regional Queensland.
United Australia Party is behind Farmers and will introduce the Australia Fund so in the times of natural disasters or economic hardship funds will be available to support them.
To keep small business and regional industry able to operate in a more productive manner we will change the tax system so that provisional tax is not required to be paid in advance on projected income. If tax was paid on actual income at the end of a fiscal year that income would be free to grow and support your business during the year.
The reintroduction of a zonal taxation will benefit any industry that chooses to set-up 200 km outside of a capital city so industry such as bio-fuels that support the use of sugarcane would evolve into flourishing job creating industry in our regional areas.
Llew O'Brien (LNP)
I RECENTLY announced $18 million for an off-stream water storage project near Maryborough, securing 600 jobs and the future of Maryborough's cane industry.
The Liberal Nationals Government has committed over $6.3 billion to support farmers and rural communities, including establishment of a $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund which will provide $100 million a year for ever for drought mitigation projects. Farm Household Allowance (FHA) has delivered $266.9 million in fortnightly support payments and we will make the $5m farm assets test for FHA permanent, and provide new restocking and replanting concessional loans of up to $200,000 and create rural financial counsellors for small business.
The Australian Government funds up to 75 per cent of natural disaster recovery costs. A re-elected Coalition Government will establish a $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund to fund natural disaster recovery and response initiatives, above and beyond existing programs, providing an effective safety net.
Maryborough's sugar industry generates $45 million of economic activity annually within Wide Bay, and its sustainability is one of my highest priorities. My $18 million commitment for the Maryborough sugar industry's water storage project will provide certainty for cane growers.
I am keen to see our sugar industry grow and diversify. The Government supports the development of the bio-energy sector, particularly through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, recognising that the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste is a priority.
Anne Jackson (GRN), Damian Huxham (ONP), Joseph Ellul (UAP), Adrian Wone (IND), Jason Scanes (ALP), Aaron Vico (ONP) and Jasmine Smith (FACNP) were contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline.