WATER and fuel tax credits are just two of the issues that loom as talking points, as agricultural advocates prepare to get to work with the new federal Labor government.

While Australian agriculture’s path forward will become clearer when more of Labor’s policy detail is released and the new agriculture minister is announced, primary industries groups are voicing what their top priorities are.

One of the top priorities for GrainGrowers, a national body, is ensuring fuel tax credits are maintained, according to SA-based chief executive officer David McKeon.

He said it was an issue at the forefront of growers’ minds across the country, as evidenced by a pre-election grower survey.

The federal government banks about 42 cents from every litre of petrol and diesel sold, but some businesses including those in mining and agriculture can claim a rebate through the Diesel Fuel Tax Credit Scheme.

The fuel tax is designed to cover damage to roads caused by heavy vehicles, but some industries get a rebate as recognition that their vehicles and machinery spend little time on public roads.

“Through the course of the election campaign, there has been some uncertainty and mixed messaging from some candidates on the future of the Diesel Fuel Tax Credit scheme,” Mr McKeon said.

“It can be a bit confusing so just to be clear – the scheme is not a subsidy.

“It’s simply recognition that farm machinery spends time on paddocks and not roads, therefore reducing the road tax payable.

“It is critically important to our growers and requires bipartisan support, alongside many of the other long-standing matters such as biosecurity and government matched funding of industry levies for research and development.”

Mr McKeon said GrainGrowers had been working closely with candidates and alongside the National Farmers Federation to ensure the issue was understood and the right settings were in place.

“An undermining of the fuel tax credit scheme would damage our Australian farmers’ ability to compete on the world stage and therefore their profitability and productivity and we’ll be continuing our work on this important issue,” he said.

Primary Producers SA chair Simon Maddocks said there were both opportunities and challenges that came with a change in government.

He said an issue that may cause some friction between states in the coming 12 to 18 months was that of water.

“Labor has committed to re-introducing buyback schemes in the Murray-Darling Basin to deliver 450 gigalitres into the South Australian Murray,” he said.

“That’s good for environmental flows and I think it will create some tension between us and our eastern state counterparts as to where that water will come from.”

Mr Maddocks said Labor’s commitment to a sustainable funding base for biosecurity was a positive moving forward, particularly given current outbreaks of lumpy skin disease and foot-and-mouth disease in Indonesia.

He said plans to phase out live sheep exports had caused concern within the sheep industry about what the ramifications may be, but more would be known when greater policy detail was released.

Discussions also loom about Labor’s stance on the ag visa, and also what opportunities can be captured by the primary industry sector from the new government’s commitment to strengthening workforce and skills training.

Mr Maddocks also expected to see a greater focus on climate change, climate variability and environmental management issues, due to the “message” voters sent at the election.

“I don’t see that as a negative, but what we’ll be looking for is a recognition that farmers live this every day and have been leading some of the efforts to implement improved farming practices and adaptations to climate variability,” he said.

“We hope that engagement with primary producers is recognised as pretty fundamental to how Australia goes on achieving key targets.”

Extracted in full from: Fuel rebates and water loom as talking points under new government | Stock Journal | South Australia