TO PINPOINT his approach to Australian agriculture if he were to become Agriculture Minister in a future Labor Government, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon arrived in Brisbane on the first day of The Ekka to lead a Beef Supply Chain Round Table of industry representatives and members of the Federal Labor parliamentary team.
His objective was two-fold: “I wanted every stakeholder in the supply chain in the same room discussing both the challenges and the opportunities in the beef sector — but I am also testing this as a model for what would be my approach if I’m fortunate enough to become the Minister,” he said.
“I want to be highly consultative and want all the players in the room when we are discussing really important issues — where different views can be aired, discussed and debated.”
Included in the parliamentary delegation were Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr; Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment, Jason Clare; Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Shayne Neumann; and Shadow Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Australia and Workplace Relations, Lisa Chesters.
As Member for Bendigo, Ms Chesters is being touted as a future Agriculture Minister.
The industry delegation included Don Mackay, Independent Chair of the Red Meat Advisory Council Ltd, and Bim Struss, President of the AgForce Cattle Council.
As Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Rural and Regional Australia, Joel Fitzgibbon said that if there was to be a lift in the industry, it all starts with the right signals from Government.
“Investors and participants in the sector alike need to have a clear understanding of what the government’s vision for the sector is. Below that we have to deal with a shortage in investment. We need to reduce costs including regulatory and energy costs.
“We need to address the workforce roadblocks and continue with a high-energy approach to market access and overcoming the non-trade barriers.
“With natural resource allocation, we need best practice production systems and need to make sure our limited water and soil resources are going where they get the greatest return and need to more energetically chase premium markets.
“International competition is going to continue to grow and we need to be better placed to compete. We need to lift our productivity and reduce our costs,” he said.
Speaking to agalert.com.au after the Round Table, the Shadow Minister said he certainly understands that agreement won’t be achieved on all issues, but his aim is to meet the aspirations of the beef sector where everyone in the supply chain is working together.
“I am testing this as a model if I become Agriculture Minister in a Shorten Government — where views are discussed and debated,” he said.
“Labor is ready to govern at any time, and I am absolutely devoted to being the Minister.”
Joel Fitzgibbon said he loves the agriculture sector — which he says continues to be flat and is losing global market share.
“The current government lacks high level strategic planning to address these problems — thus profitability is patchy.”
He said he wanted to be highly consultative, he wanted stakeholders to challenge ideas — and it all starts with the right signals from government by detailing its vision for the sector.
“We need to reduce regulation, the costs of energy and workforce roadblocks.
“And we will continue with an high energy approach to market access and overcoming trade barriers.
“There will be natural resource allocation to obtain the greatest return, and a Labor Government will more energetically chase premium markets.
“It’s as much about value as volume,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
He predicted that international competition is going to continue to grow — this we must increase productivity and reduce costs.