Budget: mostly positive, though WA agriculture needs greater commitment

Issued Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Australia’s agricultural industry was once again delivered a modest and mostly positive Federal Budget, though bigger rewards could have been delivered for Western Australian agriculture, according to WAFarmers President Tony York.

Key agricultural highlights included the establishment of a $4 billion Regional Investment Corporation; $1.1 billion over seven years for the National Landcare Program; $8.3 million over four years to support the implementation of the Livestock Global Assurance Program; and the retention of $20,000 immediate asset write-off provisions for small businesses for another year.

“For the most part, we are happy with the modest gains for the agricultural sector delivered in the 2017-18 Federal Budget, and while it is quite east coast focused, we should be grateful that it’s quite a responsible Budget for agriculture and the greater economy,” Mr York said.

“An increase from $2 million to a $10 million turnover cap for small businesses, in addition to the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write off for another year, is a benefit that will be attractive to many farmers, and one that the National Farmers’ Federation and industry should be proud of having achieved.

“Increases to the temporary skills visa fees are upfront and will be an added barrier to employment. This is certainly one to watch and we will have to wait and see what comes of this.

“A $4 billion commitment to a Regional Investment Corporation, one of the government’s election promises, could see the harmonisation and streamlining of concessional loans across all states which would see loans delivered more quickly at the farm gate.

“Producers would certainly welcome these cheaper finance options and reduction in red tape and processing costs, and while Western Australia is not currently a recipient of any concessional loans, we will wait to see whether these loans will be made available to WA producers.

“Finally, this is the first time in a number of years there hasn’t been cuts to National Landcare Program, so we welcome the opportunity to have input on how the $1.1 billion commitment can be split between agriculture and the environment. 

“Having said all this, we do wish there had been greater gains for Western Australian agriculture, as there appears to be a few big ticket items that will only affect us minimally, or not at all, such as the majority of the $20 billion investment into rail, only $792 million of which will go to WA.”

Mr York said the previous two Federal Budgets saw significant gains for the agricultural sector in the wake of the Agricultural Competitiveness and Tax White Papers, so the 2017-18 Budget could appear modest in comparison.

Though largely pleased with the results, Mr York acknowledged there was no additional funding towards the Black Spot Program so unless work is done in this space over the coming months, the $100 million allocation will expire next year.

“While we acknowledge that Western Australia is quite lucky due to our state-based program through Royalties for Regions, we do implore the Federal Government to continue to make this a priority as access to reliable telecommunications is critical to the smooth running of primary production operations, in addition to personal safety and general interactions,” he said.

ENDS.

All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Melanie Dunn on (08) 9486 2100 or melaniedunn@wafarmers.org.au.