By ERWIN CHLANDA
The official opening of the cattle loading ramp at the Bohning stock yards yesterday brought Canberra heavyweights to town.
But there was more to it: It was also the NT launch of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, setting out a $4b Federal initiative for people on the land (the one that Cabinet member Barnaby Joyce didn’t get to talk about on Q&A).
Under the brilliant winter sky was a small crowd attired from station owners’ finest (tweed jacket and moleskin trousers), to standard issue Canberra office garb to hi-vis vests.
The locals noted with satisfaction that the Territory launch was being held here, and not in Darwin.
Chris Nott, from Alcoota station, the Alice Springs branch president of the Cattlemen’s Association, welcomed the move allowing farmers to opt back into income tax averaging after 10 years, to double their Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) to $800,000, and permitting banks to allow farmers to use FMDs as a loan offset.
Mr Nott said this is something “which we’ve been pushing for in this country for a fair while [as well as] the accelerated depreciation and the $200m for bio security”.
He said the measure will mesh “with the NT Government’s new policies for leasehold country and their efforts of shoring up trade in South East Asia”.
Mr Joyce, Federal Minister for Agriculture, told the gathering that given the high cattle prices, cattlemen are “going to have a tax problem and what we have done … is to make sure that can be offset against the debt on your place. So you basically get a tax deduction for paying off your place”.
Mr Joyce said it was the kind of initiative pushed for in the Abbott Government by NT Senator Nigel Scullion, who was also at the stockyard function.
Mr Nott (pictured) said the NBN “is not a luxury any more, it’s a necessity for our business and our operation”.
He called for making cattle transport facilities more efficient, for trans-loading facilities at Port Augusta and mining access agreements.
In a nutshell, the White Paper initiatives include:-
• Expanding live export markets: “I’ve got a further big one coming,” said Mr Joyce. It will add another country to the six already in place.
• Helping farmers “achieve a better return at the farm gate” with an $11.4 million boost for the ACCC to encourage fair-trading and strengthen competition in agricultural supply chains.
• Reducing red tape from the economy by $1b a year.
• Streamlining agricultural and veterinary chemicals approvals.
• Reducing regulation.
• Improving country of origin labeling.
• Accelerated depreciation for fencing and “taxes that are lower, simpler and fairer”.
• A $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund for farmers’ future water security.
• The $29.5 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.
• Strengthening drought and risk management.
• Focus on better training through the $664 million Industry Skills Fund.
• Making visa programs more flexible by expanding the Seasonal Worker Program Australia-wide, and the Working Holiday Maker (417 and 462) visas in northern Australia.
• $200 million to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis nationally, including in northern Australia.
PHOTOS: As his government had paid for it, Mr Joyce deserved to cut the ribbon at cattle loading ramp. He is pictured with NT Chief Minister Adam Giles. In the Akubra stakes the Minister was runner-up to Mr Nott.
By ERWIN CHLANDA