THE fact that 85 per cent of Australians live in just five cities, remains a major hurdle to the development of rural and regional Australia.
Former Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb told the Rural Press Club in Brisbane that because 85pc of politicians also lived in the five cities, there was a lack of empathy for agriculture.
“But Australian agriculture is respected, incredibly respected, not just in the region but around the world because of what we produce,” Mr Robb told the Rural Press Club in Brisbane. “Our brand is spectacular, gold standard, clean, green and healthy food. It is just so trusted.”
Mr Robb said Australia’s city-centric focus and relatively low population added to the challenge of agriculture gaining access to the necessary capital to develop the potential of agriculture.
To help overcome the lack of development opportunities, Mr Robb said he was in the process of creating a $750 million private equity fund to help develop Australian agriculture. Gina Reinhart is a cornerstone investor in the fund.
“If we deployed all the currently available technology we could double production in everything we do as a sector,” he said. “In some cases, especially in horticulture, we could do many multiples of what we currently produce.
“The markets are there. Even if we did this we could not even supply to top 1pc of China, much less all the other countries and regional opportunities that are emerging.”
Mr Robb said within 20 to 30 years Indonesia would be the fourth biggest economy after the US, China and Japan. Liberalised countries like Vietnam and Malayisa would provide major opportunities.
“We’re surrounded by opportunity and people who have had a smell of success,” Mr Robb said. “A lot of these countries look to us because they don’t fear us. The reality is we’re not big enough to strike fear into anyone around the region. But we’re respected because we have assisted with growth and development and helped develop their economies.”