The Australian’s Global Food Forum held in Melbourne last week has confirmed that more must be done to encourage growth in our vast and underdeveloped North if Australia is to become the global food exporting superpower it has the potential to be.
“The forum confirmed what Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) has been saying for over two years,” Dom Talimanidis, Director of ANDEV/IPA North Australia project, said.
Asia’s rapid economic growth will lead to the expansion of their middle class from 500 million to three billion by 2030. An increase in quality of life will precipitate a strong demand for high protein foods that Australia is perfectly placed to supply.
“Australia has over 20 times the arable land per head of Indonesia, China and India, and over 60 times that of Japan. We have a huge opportunity to meet their growing demand for high quality produce and profit from it. However, with the global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050 we also have a moral obligation to do more,” Mr Talimanidis said.
Mr Talimanidis endorsed the comments of prominent Queensland cattle farmer Graeme Acton who said “we are in the best position, but we’re also in the worst situation.”
“Australian farmers, particularly in the North, are being strangled by red tape, green tape and a duplication of regulation on a state and federal level. Combined with high wages, Australian farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with international producers,” Mr Talimanidis said.
A key point of discussion at the conference was how Australia could successfully encourage the much needed investment necessary to expand agricultural capacity.
“Australia must look at ways at creating an environment that is conducive to large scale investment if we are to take advantage of the $2 trillion food export opportunity that exists in the region,” ANDEV Co-Chair Imants Kins said.
“To do this Australia must create a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Northern Australia with lower taxes and a streamlined regulatory environment. SEZs have successfully been used to encourage investment and population growth in countries around the world. In fact, Australia is one of the only countries in Asia that has not used this policy,” Mr Kins added.
The Institute of Public Affairs, in conjunction with Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision, is calling for the establishment of a Northern Special Economic Zone with lower taxes and a reduced regulatory burden.
The North Australia Project is a joint project of Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision and the Institute of Public Affairs. For more information visit www.andev-project.org.