Article – Top End key to food boom plan

21 September 2013
Bridget Carter
The Australian
ASSISTANT Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos says the newly elected government is committed to its pre-election promise of developing northern Australia as it prepares for a “food boom” that will join mining as a major driver of the economy.
“This is an area, where if we as a nation get it right, we can exploit the opportunity in the way we are now doing in the mining and resources industries,” said Mr Sinodinos at the Global Access Partners Annual Growth Summit in Sydney yesterday. While chairing an industry discussion about the domestic constraints on food production, Mr Sinodinos, a former adviser to John Howard, said agriculture in Australia was increasingly under the spotlight, and that investment was needed in the industry that earned $30 billion in exports annually.
“It is not understating things to say that there is this food boom coming on top of this resources boom that we have, and it is a myth to say that these booms are somehow over.
“In the case of resources, the investment phase is tapering off, but we are going to continue to pump out lots of resource exports.” Exports from resources totalled $190bn during 2011, according to figures from Austrade.
Yesterday, Mr Sinodinos said the country was in a phase where agriculture and its capacities in that area would be at the centre of attention.
“That will require investment, that will require regulatory constraints, it will require contribution from the public and private sectors,” he said.
“We will have to look at how, for example, the development of infrastructure underpins our capabilities in this space.”   Mr Sinodinos also referred to promises by the Coalition to develop the Top End.
During his election campaign, Tony Abbott unveiled the Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia, which committed the government to producing a white paper within 12 months to examine ways to boost agricultural production and tourism, grow urban centres and expand the energy export industry.
Options would include changes to tax incentives, infrastructure investment and increased tropical research.
Farmers and other industry groups have cautiously welcomed the Coalition’s plans to develop the Top End, while calling for more detail and funding commitments and warning against investing in “white elephants”.
Yesterday, Mr Sinodinos said the development of the country’s north was “not a pipedream”.
“It is not about creating white elephants in northern Australia; it is about a considered, mature strategy based on evidence-based policy making.”   The government was committed to developing other industries in the north in an effort to develop the region as a gateway to Australia, he said.
Mr Sinodinos’s comments come after reports that Indonesia plans to buy 1.5 million hectares of cattle country in northern Australia .
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has said Indonesia’s plans are not in Australia’s interests.
At the summit yesterday, Mr Sinodinos said he welcomed input from the private sector about opportunities and restraints in agriculture.
Previously, Mr Sinodinos has said that attracting international investment is the key to boosting economic growth in sectors such as resources, manufacturing and agriculture, and fighting growing unemployment.
Courtesy of The Australian