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Australia’s unappetising, business-as-usual Budget: AFGC

By Kacey Culliney , 09-May-2012
Last updated on 09-May-2012 at 18:30 GMT2012-05-09T18:30:53Z

Australia's Budget: a bit blurred for food and grocery industry...
Australia's Budget: a bit blurred for food and grocery industry...

Australia’s Federal Budget is unappetising, with no bold policies directly impacting the country’s food and drink industry, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

The Australian government released its annual Budget on the evening of May 8.

Dr Geoffrey Annison, acting chief executive of AFGC, described the Budget as disappointing, and failed to make any real changes to Australia’s largest manufacturing sector – food and grocery – valued at A$108bn.

It is, “business-as-usual rather than a bold new plan for industry to become more competitive domestically and globally and continue to invest, innovate and create jobs,” Annison said.

There is little in this Budget to enable industry to become more competitive, he said, and it does not reflect the Prime Minister’s recent call for Australia to become a global leader in food production and play a key role in worldwide food security.

He also expressed disappointment at the lack of new funding for the long-anticipated National Food Plan; an “important blueprint” for industry. However, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has noted its priority will be to deliver this plan which will look at the long-term sustainability of food production.

One big ticket…

However, Annison did acknowledge one “big ticket” item – the Australian governments investment in a A$30m manufacturing technology innovation centre, as this will boost the country’s manufacturing industry.

The government detailed that the industry-led centre will pull together researchers from agencies and universities and manufacturers, both major and SMEs, in a bid to drive innovation through new and improved industrial products and processes.

The Complementary Healthcare Council (CHC) has called upon the government to focus on preventive health in this innovation investment, as it is “an increasingly critical element of the healthcare sector.”

Wendy Morros, executive director of CHC, said that “Australia has proven itself as a global leader in research and development and this additional funding will hopefully allow the complementary medicines industry to build on this reputation.”

A commitment to building a sustainable biosecurity system was also included in the Budget, with A$379.9m to be used over seven years to develop a post entry quarantine facility near Melbourne.

Joe Ludwig, minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said this facility will mean Australia has the “newest and most advanced technology available to manage the import of high-risk plant and animal material.”

The AFGC welcomed this as maintaining bio-security and protecting agricultural production is “critical” to the food and grocery manufacturing sector.

More work for FSANZ and less money

The budget for Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) was decreased; a move of concern said Annison, “as the organisation will have a substantially increased workload associated with the proposed health claim regulations.”

“Having a poorly resourced regulator is not in the best interest of food and grocery manufacturers, or for Australian consumers,” he said.

Government must to continue to work closely with industry on reforms to ensure a “thriving, prosperous and robust food and grocery industry that will contribute many benefits to Australia’s economy including job opportunities, especially in rural and regional areas,” he said.