You can always smell an election before you see it...much like the rain. And, as we all eagerly await the formal election announcement that will send us to the polls in May, this past week's Federal Budget was a lesson in political timing and expediency. An election is indeed coming.
It was clear from the Budget that agriculture and the regions are important to the federal government and QFF acknowledges this was backed up with $7.1 billion in spending on important transformative infrastructure projects that will benefit agriculture. There was also an additional $2 billion committed to the Regional Accelerator Program that will improve supply chain resilience. We welcome these commitments as the sector has done the heavy lifting for our economy over the past couple of years despite the enormous challenges we face.
Those challenges are also still very real - flood, drought, bio threats, water security and labour issues all still exist. They require long term solutions and real vision.
While there was some spends that concentrated on aspects of these challenges, this Federal Budget was perhaps more focused on a shorter-term outcome that did not inspire us with the vision that is required to work towards solutions to complex issues.
Water security is a big issue. QFF has expressed our disappointment at the federal government effectively 'leaving agriculture out to dry' by not addressing the real issues with water security and the impacts of climate change. Water is a critical input for the agricultural sector, and essential for the future growth of agriculture across Queensland.
While it was good to see the $80 million being put towards the Bowen Pipeline, a vital part of infrastructure that will drive growth for the state and build resilience for farmers, this budget falls short on seeing the long-term vision and viability of our sector through the lack of commitment to address the water, energy, productivity nexus.
Fully addressing the workforce challenges of our regions has also been an opportunity missed. It is one thing to invest in jobs creation and skill our workforces, but those programs cannot be considered in isolation of issues such as the housing crisis that plagues the regions.
Without homes to live in there simply will be no new workers and this is impacting every sector that has a rural and regional footprint. QFF will continue to work with our governments at all levels to seek solutions to our regional housing crisis.
Beyond the Federal Budget, QFF is working hard to address workforce challenges in the agriculture sector through partnering with the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance, Jobs Queensland and the Queensland government to hold the Queensland Agworkforce Summit to be held virtually from August 3 - 5.
The summit is shaping up well and there will be a range of speakers focusing on the core themes of adaptability, attraction, retention and skilling. For more information, go to the summit website www.qldagworkforce.org.au
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