Australian Greens’ food proposals met with muted welcome
The policy document included a number of proposals to boost support for Australian farmers, including an additional AU$300m for research and development in agriculture, reform of competition policy, funding for regional food hubs and investments in low-energy technology for farms.
It also committed to the establishment of a Food Advisory Council to provide expert advice to government and a National Food Policy Ministerial Board to coordinate national food policy.
“We need government to put our people, our farmers and the environment at the heart of our food system; and we need to boost public investment in research and development to ensure we have the information we need,” said Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens.
However, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) – which represents farmers in Australia – gave the report a muted welcome.
NFF president Duncan Fraser said that while the NFF “cautiously” supported some of the proposals, there were still issues that farmers and the Greens were “diametrically opposed” on, such as live exports.
He added that some of the measures in the report – such as those on free trade – were “simplistic solutions to complex issues”.
The Greens policy stated that it would drive a “shift from free trade to fair trade” by ensuring that new trade agreements contained mechanisms to reflect the cost to Australian farmers of meeting higher environmental and labour standards than some trading partners.
The NFF said it wanted policies that would deliver tangible results, and “not measures that look good on paper”.
It added that it was looking for parliamentarians to commit to five key priorities: reprioritising agriculture in the national agenda, increased R&D, increased competitiveness and profitability; building a stronger workforce and balancing between agriculture and the environment, and would release a scorecard marking the different political parties on how they met these commitments in the run-up to the election.