2020 AgForce Queensland Election Major Parties Scorecard
Cane, cattle, grain, and sheep and wool farmers and their families are essential to the strength and prosperity of Queensland’s regions and the wellbeing of our communities from the tip of Cape York to the borders.
As part of Queensland’s primary industries and food supply chain which supports over 300,000 jobs, we generate around $7.3billion in farm products annually and steward over 86% of the state’s land, a resource that needs active management.
Our sector needs a broad commitment to advance the wellbeing of farming families, achieve sustainable and profitable farming enterprises, and secure the liveability and prosperity of our rural communities and the state.
Through our Stand With Regional Queensland campaign, we need the next state government to deliver sustainable policies that make regional Queensland the outstanding investment destination and an attractive place to live and work.
AgForce has released a 2020 State Election scorecard which uses a dial system to rate the policy commitments announced by the major parties so far within the campaign against our four policy priority areas outlined in AgForce’s Strong Regions for a Strong Queensland platform within our campaign.
AgForce’s four policy priority theme areas are:
- People – helping communities thrive
- Places – boosting the bush
- Planet – nurture our natural resources
- Profit – building sustainable businesses.
Major political parties were formally invited to respond to the AgForce 2020 policy platform.
The initial scorecard is based on available public policy statements from the political parties as at 15 October 2020 and/or specific responses to AgForce, including at our Politics in the Pub online event on 11 October. As at 15 October only the LNP had formally provided a written response, while verbal discussions have occurred with other party’s representatives.
Where parties have not released policies, specifically responded to AgForce’s invitation or met with AgForce staff they have been given a neutral rating – zero on our scoring system. The scoring system was an internal AgForce process with input from Board members and member policy experts.
Scores will be updated throughout the campaign to reflect further policy announcements or additional commitments given by the parties during the campaign, as well as continued non-response to our policy priorities.
- Our sector needs a broad commitment to advance the wellbeing of farming families, achieve sustainable and profitable farming enterprises, and secure the liveability and prosperity of our rural communities and the state.
- we need the next state government to deliver sustainable policies that make regional Queensland the outstanding investment destination and an attractive place to live and work.
- political parties needed to adopt policies that take agriculture forward, not hold it back.
Some key issues for broadacre agriculture in this election include:
- Regional services and infrastructure
- Growth opportunities – Northern development, water security and markets
- Environmental management and regulation – Reef and VM
- Climate and business resilience.
So far this State Election has seen some welcome services and infrastructure announcements, with Queensland Labor and the LNP both having strong regional health and education agendas and a commitment to improving connectivity in the bush.
Disappointingly no party has clear policies promoting farm safety or a forward agenda for workforce skilling and AgForce will look for further attention to these issues in the remainder of the campaign.
On roads, the LNP and Queensland Labor have made billion-dollar commitments to improve the vital strategic coastal network of the Bruce Highway and the KAP have pledged to continue their work on improving northern beef roads. Queensland Labor have also committed to $200 million toward an Inland Bruce Highway. A comprehensive plan for the strategically important inland ag freight routes, both road and rail, is still lacking however and is vital to put downward pressure on freight costs, which can make up to 30 to 50pc of farm costs.
Towards growing agriculture there has been a strong and pleasing focus on water infrastructure and security in this election. Revisiting the Bradfield scheme to divert water through inland Queensland has broad political support, with the exception of The Greens. Both the LNP and KAP have detailed policies on dams and growing irrigation within the state, with the LNP promising a 20pc reduction in water prices for scheme irrigators, $20 million for land studies by CSIRO and $45 million to build two new weirs in the Wide Bay – Burnett. The Greens and Queensland Labor have policies to increase water-related regulation, including reinstating the onerous wild/pristine rivers legislation, which negates some positive policies towards Great Artesian Basin sustainability and improving security of town supply and affordability of irrigation scheme water, respectively.
Reef and vegetation management regulation are two of the biggest concerns to AgForce members and a significant point of difference between the political parties. All Queensland farmers have ever asked for are fair and balanced vegetation management laws and AgForce has warmly welcomed the LNP commitment to adopt AgForce’s landscape management proposals almost in its entirety. ONP have also expressed support for our landscape management policies. KAP have also promised to repeal and overhaul Reef Protection regulations and undertake ongoing consultation with AgForce.
Politicians need to recognise that sustainable development and good environmental outcomes can be achieved without always resorting to more regulations. Unfortunately, this is yet to be recognised in the policies of Queensland Labor and The Greens, who continue to support onerous and unbalanced vegetation and Reef red tape. It also disappointing in relation to AgForce’s support for a Natural Capital approach, that only the LNP mentioned incentives to assist landholders achieve sustainable development and environmental outcomes.
With two-thirds of Queensland still drought declared, some areas for over 7 years, supporting farmer’s efforts to manage climate risk and grow business resilience have never been more important. Slated to be phased out by the current Government, Queensland Labor is yet to support a replacement to fodder and water transport subsidies. These subsidies are supported by the KAP, with the LNP yet to announce their drought policies but have promised to work with farmers on further reforms. Drought and disaster management policies need further clarification prior to election day.
On market opportunities, the ONP, LNP and KAP support our important live export industry, while Queensland Labor and The Greens are committed to phase it out. This detracts from some good support for streamlining and promoting agricultural exports that Queensland Labor has supported during the recovery period from COVID-19.
Other positives announced during the campaign include:
- LNP committed to improve frontline biosecurity services, review the effectiveness of national park Good Neighbour Policy and revisit the parliamentary weeds inquiry findings
- KAP recognition of the need for more on-ground resources to manage biosecurity and other risks on state land including National Parks
- LNP plans to use retail competition to reduce regional electricity prices and introduce a new set of affordable agricultural tariffs
- Queensland Labor plans to continue the $10 million Rural Economic Development Grant program and encouraging carbon farming
- The Greens commitment to preserving Good Quality Agricultural Land from encroachment by other land uses.
While there are some good strong policies towards supporting regional Queensland and broadacre agriculture, there is also a lack of policies or detail in response to AgForce’s Strong Regions for a Strong Queensland platform. AgForce encourages the major parties to fill in these gaps, which will be reflected in our scorecard results all the way up to election day.
Explore the parties
The KAP have not yet responded in writing to our Policy Platform but have otherwise engaged well with AgForce during this election. They have a strong focus on rural infrastructure, including continuing work on northern beef roads, the Townsville to Mt Isa rail line, and growing irrigation opportunities across the state. KAP support our important live export industry. They score well on their promise to compensate for loss of property value due to environmental regulation, repeal and overhaul Reef Protection regulations and to closely consult with AgForce on reforming vegetation regulation. Recognising the need for more on-ground resources to manage biosecurity and other risks on state land including National Parks is also a positive.
KAP’s score could be further strengthened by their providing more detail on their commitments to our Platform, including support for farm safety, a comprehensive plan for the strategically important inland ag freight routes, both road and rail, and developing a marketplace for environment services provided by farmers.
The LNP have engaged strongly with AgForce during this election, including being the only party to formally respond to our Policy Platform. They have a broad policy agenda including detailed plans on water including establishing a state Dam Company, investing $20 million for land studies to revisit the Bradfield scheme, restoring Paradise Dam, $45 million for 2 new weirs in the Wide Bay – Burnett, a 20pc reduction in irrigation scheme water prices and to introduce a new set of affordable agricultural electricity tariffs. AgForce has welcomed the LNP commitment to adopt our vegetation management proposal almost in its entirety. They have committed to work across industry groups to overhaul Reef regulations but not more than that at this stage.
Their headline $33B Bruce Highway upgrade commitment will support the regions and the LNP also has a solid health and mobile phone connectivity agenda for the bush. They have announced 10 extra frontline staff in Biosecurity Queensland efficiency, revisiting the invasive weeds inquiry findings, and also to improve state land management. Further detail on the LNP’s intended approach to drought support, protecting good ag land and inland freight routes (including rail) would assist.
Since the launch of the scorecard, Queensland Labor in the last days of the campaign period has responded in writing to AgForce’s Policy Platform. They also participated in our Politics in the Pub event. They have supported a range of positive policies including streamlining and promoting agricultural exports under COVID-19, continuing the $10 million Rural Economic Development Grant program, improve rural health services, the Bruce Highway and an inland alternative, revisiting the Bradfield Scheme, addressing town water security, reducing water prices for scheme irrigators by 15pc over the next three years, addressing connectivity issues in the bush, and encouraging carbon farming. They have committed to $4 million in grants for wild dog cluster fencing and activities to assist the sheep industry grow, along with $1.4 million to help stakeholder organisations prepare for and respond to current and future biosecurity challenges. They have also announced $45 million to upgrade regional school facilities to support industry training including agriculture.
Unfortunately, these positive initiatives by Labor are heavily offset by policies that impact heavily on broadacre industry. These include introducing pristine rivers legislation, ongoing support for onerous and unbalanced vegetation laws and Reef red tape and a phasing out of drought subsidies without a better replacement. They also have a policy of transitioning away from live export. AgForce is awaiting their policy on removal of stamp duty on agricultural insurance.
Queensland Labor is yet to announce their agriculture policy and formally reply to AgForce, both of which could help to strengthen their current score.
ONP have not yet responded in writing to our policy platform but did participate in our Politics in the Pub event. They back further investment in water infrastructure and the implementation of a hybrid Bradfield scheme, addressing water and electricity affordability and have expressed support for AgForce’s landscape management policies and the creating of a natural capital marketplace. The ONP has committed to consulting with the ag sector on environmental policies and also supports our live export industry.
AgForce looks forward to further policy announcements by ONP throughout the campaign period as it relates to our Strong Regions for a Strong Queensland platform. Further information on their policies, such as on regional health and education, improving transport infrastructure and growing and skilling the agricultural workforce, is needed to better assess potential benefits to regional Queensland and broadacre agriculture and so strengthen their scorecard result.
The Greens have not yet responded in writing to our Policy Platform but did have a representative at our Politics in the Pub event. The Greens have some positive policies for broadacre agriculture including supporting continued capping and piping of the Great Artesian Basin and a commitment to preserving Good Quality Agricultural Land from encroachment by other land uses.
However, The Greens over-reliance on the use of regulation to address environmental issues leaves it in an overall negative scoring territory. The Greens do not support construction of further dams, seek a reinstatement of the wild rivers legislation and increased water-related regulation, continuation of onerous and unbalanced vegetation and Reef laws and also support a phasing out of live export.
Release of more agriculture and farmer-friendly policies prior to election day, such as on regional infrastructure and services, drought, and biosecurity investment could support a strengthening of the current scorecard result.