Thursday 5 May 2016
As the dust settles it is now clear the Andrews Labor Government failed to invest in agriculture in this year’s State Budget.
In fact the Agriculture budget has quietly dropped more than $36 million since Labor took office in 2014.
Treasurer Tim Pallas is boasting that his high-taxing Budget means he can afford to spend $11 billion of Victorian taxpayers’ money on a Melbourne Metro train tunnel.
But turn the spotlight to agriculture and there are quite a few zeros missing from the balance sheets.
To give one example Mr Pallas released just $6.8 million for new capital investment in the Agriculture portfolio. That’s 0.06 per cent of his Melbourne Metro spend.
And another example: new recurrent funding for Agriculture initiatives get $50 million but that’s spread across four years.
The bulk of that $50 million is a $20.6 million allocation for biosecurity and in Minister Pulford’s own words “This funding is for maintaining our current biosecurity services.”
It’s clear the Andrews Labor Government is not splashing the cash on new Agriculture initiatives quite the same way they are for city transport projects.
This is disappointing because our food and fibre industries contribute so much to our regional communities and state economy and they deserve support and investment.
Victoria’s agricultural industries generated $11.6 billion in exports in the last financial year. They support more than 30 000 businesses and create jobs for more than 170 000 people.
Instead of sharing the spoils of this year’s Budget with our food and fibre industries the government is actually imposing more costs on farm and manufacturing businesses by tripling the tax on coal paid by energy companies.
This is nothing more than an electricity tax that will be passed back onto energy users.
It’s already a tough time for dairy farmers and irrigators who are high energy users. They simply can’t afford rising costs. It’s like Labor’s disastrous Carbon Tax all over again.
There are huge opportunities on our doorstep when it comes to the appetite for Victoria’s clean green premium produce among the booming middle class populations of Asia. But this year’s Budget doesn’t back the Andrews Labor Government’s rhetoric on support for agriculture.