The food industry has come out largely in support of this week’s Australian federal Budget, which is being viewed by commentators as the toughest in two decades.
With the country facing a deficit of A$49.9bn (US$46.9bn) this financial year, and an economy that is expected to under-perform over the coming years, finance minister Joe Hockey placed his focus squarely on cutting spending.
However, Gary Dawson, chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, applauded how Hockey had implemented savings.
“Massive budget deficits create a climate of uncertainty for business which undermines confidence and investment, essential to underpin jobs and growth. This budget’s concerted effort to rein in spending and streamline services sends positive signals to business of the government’s fiscally responsible approach to public finances,” Dawson said.
“The A$11.6bn (US$10.9bn) infrastructure growth package will be a significant boost in stimulating growth and confidence food and grocery and agribusiness sectors.
“For the food and grocery and agrifood sectors, which are spread across the length and breadth of the continent, this massive boost in infrastructure planning and delivery is essential in developing supply chain solutions that create world leading, efficient channels to market.”
Dawson added that the impact of tough budget measures on the A$111bn (US$104.3bn) food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector can be offset through a concerted attack on its high cost base through regulatory and energy market reform.
Relief for farmers
Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Federation breathed a sigh of relief in the belief that agriculture had “survived” following the Budget announcement, which “largely delivered” on the government’s election commitments.
Brent Finlay, the NFF president, voiced approval of measures that include increases in funding to critical infrastructure projects, commitments to retain the fuel rebate for farmers and ongoing support for rural R&D corporations.
“The NFF acknowledges the confirmation of the government’s A$100m election commitment to agriculture-specific research and development over the next four years,” said Finlay.
“We also welcome the government’s commitment to developing key infrastructure projects in regional Australia.”
However, the body was less enthusiastic about cuts to the National Landcare Programme and the abolition of the Environmental Stewardship Programme.
More complementary research
While welcoming the Budget’s commitment to medical research, the Complementary Healthcare Council nevertheless urged the government to recognise the growing contribution of complementary medicines by directing 10% of medical funding to research in this field.
“It is encouraging to see that the government has recognised the importance of long-term support for medical research to help reduce the burden of disease on our communities, but it is also vital for the health of all Australians that high quality research is undertaken into the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of complementary medicines,” said Carl Gibson, the CHC’s chief executive.
“Despite statistics showing that complementary medicines make up approximately 12.5% of the medicines and medical devices industry, less than 1% of National Health and Medical Research Council funding supported complementary medicine research this previous year.”