​Media Release

Littleproud marks 300 days; more hard work to come

29 October 2018

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has celebrated 300 days as Agriculture Minister, vowing to continue to work hard on delivering important policies such as dairy industry reform.​

Minister Littleproud was sworn in as Agriculture Minister in late December 2017. He had a baptism of fire: the Senate disallowed part of the Murray Darling Basin Plan; the Senate had already rejected the Nationals plan for a Regional Investment Corporation and horrible footage surfaced of an Awassi live sheep voyage from August 2017.

Ten months later, the Regional Investment Corporation is set up in Orange and is currently recruiting staff after Minister Littleproud negotiated with the Senate cross bench to have the legislation passed in the first sitting week of 2018; the Murray Darling Basin Plan has bipartisan support has been agreed to by all Basin states, has passed the Senate and work is now underway to deliver it, and there are independent observers on all sheep boats and much lighter stocking densities as well as other reforms underway.

"I'm thrilled to have my dream job and grateful for every day in it," Minister Littleproud said.

"My aim is to leave an election-proof legacy with lasting reform, unable to be erased if the government changes. I won't be the minister forever and I aim to do some good while I'm here.

"I focus on sensible, pragmatic, and if possible bipartisan reform. This is why I reach across the aisle as I did with the Murray Darling Basin Plan. We rarely achieve lasting peace by going to war.

"I'm glad to have delivered on decentralisation through the Regional Investment Corporation. I believe country people have just as much right to public service jobs as the people living in our capital cities.

"There's much more work to do—the complex dairy market needs serious reform and there's more to deliver on the Nationals decentralisation agenda. I'll keep working my butt off for as long as I'm in the minister's chair."

Some highlights:

REGIONAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION: passed the Senate in first week as minister after having been stuck in the Senate. The RIC is now up and running and hiring began last week for the site in Orange, NSW.

MURRAY DARLING BASIN PLAN: Delivered the Plan after key parts were initially disallowed by the Senate. Negotiated with Labor on the vital Northern Basin Review to prevent disallowance.

LIVE EXPORT: footage of Awassi voyage from August 2017 emerged April 2018. Ordered a review of the Middle Eastern Summer trade, a revisiting of the Mortality Incident Report 69 (Awassi August 2017 voyage), and Moss review into the Department of Agriculture's Capability, Culture and Investigative Powers.

Delivered independent observers on all live sheep boats, lower stocking densities in the Middle Eastern summer and outside of it, brought forward legislation to double penalties for animal cruelty by live exporters. Moss review to be released soon.

FUTURE VISION: Launched a project to develop a shared vision for the future of Australia's agricultural innovation system in September.

RED TAPE: EPBC Act review separated out of larger review so it could be completed this year.

BIOSECURITY: Delivered a $313 million boost over the next five years to keep our agriculture industry safe from potential invaders.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Got agreement from fast food companies to display country of origin information in their apps and on their websites. Domino's has already rolled this out.

DAIRY: Delivered milk price index to give farmers access to market information as per ACCC recommendation. Currently working on a Mandatory Code of Conduct and other measures.

CLIMATE: Had agricultural Ministers Council agree to work on climate adaptation strategy.

DROUGHT: Held Drought Roundtable in July with banks and representatives of all state farm bodies. Later got banks to agree to allow farmers to use their Farm Management Deposits as an offset against their loans, saving farmers tens of thousands of dollars.

Direct assistance and concessional loans increased to $1.8 billion. Farm Household Allowance benefit period increased from three to four years; boosted this year from around $25,000 to $37,000 per farming couple, commenced review of FHA; reduced application form from 15 pages to 10, lifted net on-farm assets threshold from $2.6 million to $5 million.

Extra $5 million for 39 extra Rural Financial Counselling staff (further to the $20 million to meet additional demand), increased funding for pests and weeds, and additional resilience measures - including new accelerated depreciation measures for grain and fodder storage infrastructure and creating regional climate guides. A Drought Future Fund will grow to $5 billion delivering around $100M a year for drought preparedness and other measures.

TRADE: $51 million for six new Agricultural Counsellors to help negotiate export agreements for farm product into overseas markets (trade agreements are useless without these export protocols).

Some 41 market access gains across a broad range of markets and commodities.  This includes 16 for new market access, 4 restored, 15 improved and 6 maintained. New market access includes Hass avocados to Japan, bean seeds for sowing to Iran, seed potatoes from Victoria and South Australia to Indonesia and raw cotton bales to Iran. Improved market access dairy products to China, meat to Singapore and a new irradiation method for horticultural exports into Thailand.

REPRESENTATION: Increased the percentage of women on boards in the agriculture portfolio from 37 per cent to 47 per cent. 

SUGAR: Code of conduct review brought forward and began in July, due by year's end.