News Parliament


Mr GEE (Calare) (16:41): I rise in support of the Primary Industries Research and Development Amendment Bill 2017. Our primary industries are one of the great strengths that we have as a nation, and they are also a key component of our economy—particularly our regional economies and the communities that they sustain. In the electorate of Calare we are blessed with talented people, bountiful natural resources and the can-do attitude to make the most of our opportunities. Our Australian farmers are, without doubt, the best in the world.

Ms McGowan: Hear, hear!

Mr GEE: I note the interjection and the endorsement and agreement of the member for Indi. I would also say, with respect to her previous comments: if you'd like to see agricultural research and development in action, come to Orange in the Calare electorate. More on that shortly.

For many years now, our Australian farmers have been amongst the world's most efficient growers of quality produce. They work hard, regularly investing and innovating to succeed, without the trade barriers and subsidies that exist in other countries. Our farmers are succeeding because they embrace the idea of doing things better, not just by working harder but by working smarter. Our agricultural sector is also, without a doubt, the world's best. But this doesn't just happen; a huge amount of work goes into making Australian agriculture such a success story. It starts on the farm but it includes a host of other organisations. Amongst these are our Commonwealth statutory research and development corporations, charged, in this case, with the development of cotton, grains, fisheries and other rural industries.

Australia's success increasingly depends on the discovery and distribution of knowledge across our agricultural sector. Thinking more broadly, this means not only do we have to share knowledge amongst growers and producers but we need to inform and persuade potential customers and consumers. While our research and development corporations help farmers to apply science to grow better fruit, grain, fibre or fish, they also need to communicate these advancements and their benefits within respective markets. Yet until now, four research and development corporations have been strictly limited to funding their marketing activities and efforts with industry-wide statutory marketing levies or fees levied on every single producer. These processes have, to date, involved consulting, reaching agreement and establishing and collecting levies. As my colleague the member for Cowper has previously noted, they have been very costly, time consuming and contrary to the ideal of speed to market. By freeing our research and development corporations to raise marketing funds through voluntary industry contributions, grants, gifts and even bequests, we'll enable our peak bodies to convert their research breakthroughs into higher agricultural sales and market share.

Central western New South Wales, including the Calare electorate, is at the vanguard of agricultural innovation in Australia, thus my invitation a short time ago to the member for Indi to come and visit. The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, based in Orange, does terrific work, and I'd like to bring to the attention of this House some pertinent examples of how industry collaboration and communication can quickly turn into commercial opportunity.

A New South Wales Department of Primary Industries team, including Dr Fay Haynes, Lloyd Kingham and Adam Coleman, recently worked with Local Land Services, New South Wales DPI offices of biosecurity and New South Wales DPI Agriculture to build long-term market resilience into our orchards and the orcharding industry. As part of this, the team introduced the use of irradiation-based treatment to completely assure the quality of our fruit to overseas customers. After this was introduced and proved with respect to our cherry trade with Indonesia, Vietnam accepted this use of irradiation within its own export protocols, and we've restored our market access there. I congratulate all of the parties who worked to achieve that goal and that important milestone in our agricultural exports. The upshot is that, when we demonstrate and communicate product innovation, industry costs can be lowered, markets can be opened and stabilised, and agricultural exports can be grown.

I also acknowledge the work of our farmers on the ground collaborating with the New South Wales DPI, including local New South Wales Farmers members who've worked with the DPI on this and many other programs. I make particular mention of the chair of the Orange branch of the New South Wales Farmers, Bruce Reynolds, Graham and Annette Brown, Guy and Sim Gaeta, Peter West and Joe Caltabiano. There are many others; they are just a few who have collaborated with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

I spoke earlier of the need to market our agricultural breakthroughs to potential buyers of our produce. Just as important is the ability for research and development corporations to speed the uptake and adoption of their knowledge and intellectual property by our farmers. We're doing this in Calare with a specialised facility that enables ag-tech innovators and specialist firms to fast-track agricultural innovations to market. This initiative is called the Global Ag-Tech Ecosystem, or GATE. It's an incubator. It's a collaboration at Orange between the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Horticulture Innovation Australia, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, and SparkLabs Cultiv8. The aim of the GATE is to facilitate all forms of Australian agriculture to gain greater access into global markets and, in particular, Asian markets and also to facilitate funding and investment. It's an ag-tech centre. It's based at the Orange Agricultural Institute, close to Orange's agricultural finance companies and institutions, which continue to grow in number and for which the area is becoming renowned.

I was present at the launch of the GATE. This initiative is unique and impressive. This is agriculture looking to the future. It highlights the energy and enterprise of those at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries who drove it, but it also demonstrates that there are some very exciting things happening in country Australia. Many people were involved in the development of this initiative, but I'd particularly like to acknowledge the efforts of the director general of Department of Primary Industries, Scott Hansen, and the deputy director general, Michael Bullen.

I see this bill, which enables research and development corporations to operate more strategically in their marketing activities, as part of a broadening of their capability to respond properly to market circumstances and to capitalise on industry opportunities. As I said, there are some exciting developments. There are some exciting things happening in agricultural R&D and ag-tech innovation, and a lot of it is happening in the Calare electorate. I commend this bill to the House.