Australians will go to the polls on Saturday, May 18, to elect the next federal government.
This election will feature a kaleidoscope of issues affecting our nation, including many that directly impact on the agricultural sector. From the debate around water and drought to animal activists and live exports, Australian agriculture has been relentlessly attacked in recent months. To tackle this, we need to ensure politicians understand our industry and the issues affecting us.
It is imperative our voice is heard this election, which is why Cotton Australia has developed a thorough election policy platform for our industry. We want our policy priorities to be understood and considered by those wishing to sit in the parliament, to ensure they do not make knee-jerk decisions without considering the intricacies of our industry and the bigger picture.
Cotton Australia is advocating for smart water policy that improves the health of our waterways, makes farms more productive and regional communities more resilient.
To achieve this, we are asking for delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as written in 2012 and agreed to at the December 2018 Ministerial Council Meeting, enhanced investment in complementary measures to leverage greater environmental outcomes from the available water, support for states and irrigators to develop and implement a world-class system of transparent water measurement, management and compliance and improved measuring and monitoring of environmental water.
Research and development
It is imperative the Australian cotton industry is serviced by policy that protects the assets, systems and technologies we have and ensure we are innovating for the future.
Cotton Australia is calling for a commitment to maintaining matched-government funding of rural RD and E, the unlocking of innovation through a commitment to upholding the rural R and D model where growers provide input on R and D priorities facilitated via their representative organisation, ensuring access to existing and new technologies (crop protection products, biotechnology traits) which are independently proven safe for use by a robust, science-based regulatory system and maintaining funding to ensure the strength and confidence in independent, science-based regulation and reviewing system of products.
We need vibrant cotton communities sustained by a diverse economy and have access to services and technology that foster innovation.
We need to advance productivity and profitability by supporting access to reliable and affordable energy through government policies that help the industry transition to affordable and renewable energy and a continuation of the Diesel Fuel Rebate.
On telecommunications, we need mobile phone and internet connectivity with adequate speeds and data allowances to every Australian farm at a reasonable price. This can be achieved through an ongoing commitment to the Mobile Blackspot Program and complete connectivity to enable agriculture to have full access to the internet.
The cotton industry needs transport challenges addressed to improve our competitiveness and can be achieved through prioritised transport infrastructure upgrades to ease agricultural supply chain choke points.
Workforce, education and training
It is essential our industry has capable people supported by a skilled, cohesive and diverse workforce.
Cotton Australia is calling for a commitment to ensuring agriculture is strongly positioned in the education system, the establishment of strategic programs to attract more Australians to agriculture, effective visa incentives be established that encourage regional settlement and the introduction of an Agricultural Visa to specifically address skills shortages.
No matter who wins this federal election, the result of the poll will influence the ability of our industry to grow and prosper. Through these policy priorities, we are calling on all politicians to learn about what we do, understand the challenges we face and positively act to enable our industry to thrive.