The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said for the first time Australia has a long-term plan to make agriculture stronger, following the release of the Commonwealth Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
“The Nationals, working as part of a strong Coalition Government, recognise the important role our farmers and agricultural communities play in building the wealth of our nation and we are committed to supporting them to carry out their important work.”
Senator McKenzie said the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper was a vital part of the Government’s plan to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.
“A strong agriculture sector contributes to a strong economy—and that means more jobs, more exports, higher incomes and better services to the community,” Senator McKenzie said.
“We are lowering tax, cutting red and green tape, building infrastructure, encouraging trade, supporting business to innovate and create jobs and delivering lower, simpler and fairer taxes for our farmers.”
Senator McKenzie said the White Paper and the 2015 Budget deliver a better tax system for farm businesses by enabling:
• banks to allow farmers to use FMDs as a business loan offset, reducing interest costs estimated at up to $150 million a year, from 1 July 2016;
• farmers to opt back into income tax averaging after 10 years, from 1 July 2016;
• farmers to double their Farm Management Deposits to $800,000, from 1 July 2016;
• immediate tax deduction for fencing;
• immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure; and
• accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder assets.
Senator McKenzie said the Government would also invest $11.4 million to boost ACCC engagement with the agricultural sector including a new Commissioner expert in agriculture.
“A more farm-savvy and proactive ACCC will encourage fair trading and strengthen competition in agricultural supply chains,” Senator McKenzie said.
Senator McKenzie said the White Paper would also build on the Government’s investments to create 21st century water, transport and communications infrastructure, including a new $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund.
“This will deliver future water security for our farmers,” Senator McKenzie said.
Senator McKenzie said in addition to the initiatives announced in the 2015 Budget, the White Paper provides long-term support for famers when they need it most including:
• up to $250 million in Drought Concessional Loans each year for 11 years;
• $22.8 million to increase Farm Household Allowance case management for farmers;
• increased financial counselling services and improved access to community mental health services;
• access to Farm Management Deposits when needed, without losing tax concessions;
• $35 million for local infrastructure projects to help communities suffering drought; and
• $25.8 million to manage pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas.
Senator McKenzie said the Government was opening new export markets and will protect Australia’s highly prized biosecurity status, which underpins our valuable exports.
“We have delivered the trifecta of free trade agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea and China – this will deliver new opportunities for our farmers,” Senator McKenzie said.
“I am delighted that the White Paper includes $200 million to improve biosecurity which will help ensure Australia’s premium products remain top quality and $30.8 million to break down technical barriers to trade and appointing five new overseas Agriculture Counsellors.”
Further information on the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper is available online at www.agwhitepaper.agriculture.gov.au.