Australia’s farming community would view with disbelief the decision by the Gillard government to hand over $20 million to Indonesian beef producers to increase their output.
The Nationals Senators for New South Wales, Fiona Nash and John Williams, say it is ironic that Indonesian farmers get more aid when the country has cut imports of Australian beef.
They said the Labor Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, has gone cap in hand to Indonesia prepared to offer them anything to fix up the mess caused by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig last year when he shut down the live export trade.
“Media reports say the Trade and Agriculture Ministers were in Indonesia to discuss ways to improve the cattle trade. Instead they made no inroads with Indonesia adamant it will proceed with slashing Australian beef import quotas by more than a half on previous numbers, while at the same time asking Australia to invest in the Indonesian beef industry,” Senator Nash said.
“Next we hear in the media today, the government’s pledged $20 million to help Indonesian producers double their production.
“Northern Territory cattle producers were put on their knees and offered a pittance in the way of compensation when the export industry was temporarily shut down and are continuing to struggle after Indonesia slashed the quotas.
“We don’t begrudge assistance to our closest and important trading partner but the Gillard government has yet again overlooked Australian farmers.
“Other recent examples include the Agriculture Minister talking down the Australian agricultural industry’s capacity to increase productivity during free trade discussions with Japan, and the Trade Minister wanting foreign investment in our farmland by Asian countries to be open slather so that they can secure their own future food supply.”
Senator Williams added: “Today we see Holden getting $275 million. Yet the rural sector is often roundly criticised when it seeks assistance such as Exceptional Circumstances drought relief.
“The meat processing industry could do with help because it employs over 170,000 employees directly and indirectly. Seventeen meatworks in NSW have closed since 1995 but there is no respite from the industry and government levies and charges that are crippling them.
“Further, the Gillard government champions its investment in the agriculture sector yet has cut R&D assistance to organisations like the CSIRO by around $63 million, slashed $58 million from the Customs budget, axed Land and Water Australia and the Principal Plant Scientist, and has further plans to scrap the Principal Animal Scientist, for starters.
“That doesn’t even include the impact on the sector from the carbon tax when it comes in this year.”
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