Article – Agriculture white paper scrutinised by Cabinet committee, set for completion in 2015

28 March 2015
Andrew Greene
ABC News
The Abbott Government’s long-awaited agriculture white paper has become the latest target of Cabinet’s powerful razor gang.
The Government said it wanted to release the white paper as soon as possible, but insisted it would take the time to get it right.
Originally expected to be released before Christmas, the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper is now only “set for completion in 2015”.
“Well we’ve certainly been looking for the white paper to come out,” National Farmers’ Federation president Brett Finlay said.
“We’ve had over 750 submissions into this process so it’s so important for Australian agriculture but it’s also important that we get it right.
“We need to see what’s in the white paper [and] whether it’s going to be the blueprint for Australian agriculture going forward.
“But we also need resources allocated to make sure that it’s not just a document that sits on the shelf.”
It is understood the white paper, which Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has been working on, is now sitting with the Prime Minister’s office.
Saturday AM was told it was being heavily scrutinised by senior ministers and significantly by Cabinet’s budget razor gang – known officially as the Expenditure Review Committee.
A senior Government figure familiar with the contents of the document said it contained “every crackpot idea” from the past 25 years.
Another well-placed Coalition source said it was “chock full of intriguing and expensive ideas”.
Labor’s spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said agriculture was “spinning out of control under Barnaby Joyce”.
“We’ve now been 18 months without an agriculture policy,” he said.
He seized on suggestions from within the Government that Trade Minister Andrew Robb was also taking a close look at several elements of the white paper.
“Coming in to smack Barnaby Joyce’s backside and try to shock him into the 21st century and produce a document that’s going to take us forward, capitalising on all those wonderful opportunities we have,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
A spokesman for Andrew Robb confirmed the Trade Minister had “provided input to the process and it is not incompatible with the Northern Australia White Paper which he has been given responsibility for finalising”.
He said the types of areas he was providing input on included “foreign investment, for value adding, and the importance of supply chains”.
A spokesman for the Agriculture Minister said Mr Joyce believed the white paper was an important and serious document, and if he wanted it to be simply motherhood statements, it could have been released weeks ago.
The white paper is just the latest flashpoint for tensions inside the Coalition.
Earlier this week, the ABC revealed a split between the National Party and their Liberal colleagues over Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s action against canned hunting.
Frustrations are growing in the ministry too over plans to introduce a new country-of-origin food labelling regime – a policy long-advocated by the Nationals but opposed by some Liberals.
Hamersley cattle eating hay
Courtesy of ABC News