THE Coalition will focus on cutting red tape costs for primary producers starting with the carbon tax, if they defeat Labor at the upcoming election, according to Nationals Leader Warren Truss.
Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Truss said the Coalition would aim to relieve immediate financial pressures on farmers and detail more in-depth plans on how to achieve that goal, during the marathon 226-day election campaign.
His party is also committed to maximising future opportunities for Australian producers from the growing and changing food demand ratio in the Asian region
Prime Minister Julia Gillard also highlighted her government’s plans to bolster those opportunities for the farming sector, after announcing the September 14 election date during her speech at the National Press club in Canberra last week.
But those plans didn’t include axing the carbon tax introduced by her government, with support from the Greens and key Independent MPs, which has been severely criticised by farm leaders for adding to input and processing costs which are already heavily strained.
Mr Truss said abolition of the carbon tax was “obviously a very important and immediate initiative” that would help release cost pressures on farmers and rural communities.
He said the farming community was yet top realise the full impacts of the unpopular tax, with increasing transport costs due to hit the farm sector after July 1, 2014.
“We’re also committed to reducing red tape costs on the farm sector which are growing enormously along with endless, needless bureaucracy that seems to be increasing constantly.”
Mr Truss said Australia was one of only a few developed countries with the capacity to expand its farming and agricultural areas to capture future growth opportunities.
The Coalition has plans to develop and open up new production areas in northern Australia, to help provide a bigger share of that global food parcel, he said.
He also promised there would be no changes to agricultural R&D spending or major alterations to any existing programs.
“At the last election we went in with a commitment to increase R&D expenditure and certainly we regard R&D as a very high priority,” he said.
Mr Truss said although the election campaign was like a marathon, the Coalition would remain focused throughout its duration.
Mr Truss said the current polls may indicate a landslide victory for the Coalition - and spell bad news for the ALP - but the National party won’t be getting complacent.
“There’s no doubt people are sick of this Labor government and don’t believe it has performed well,” he said.
“But there’s still an obligation on us to prove that we will be better and we will deliver a government that can turn this country around and put in place sustainable policies that benefit the whole nation.
“If elected, clearly we’d come to office burdened by the legacy of this government which is a massive debt and huge interest bill that has to be paid every month.
“It will be our obligation to try and get the country’s finances back to order, while at the same time having a positive approach to building a stronger economy.
“Investing in a more productive Australia helps boost the revenue and that’s an important part of balancing the budget too.
“We will certainly continue our strong emphasis as a party on making sure rural and regional Australia and our farmers get a fair share of our nation’s growth and prosperity and a fair return from what they contribute to the nation’s overall growth and prosperity.”
Mr Truss said Australians have been “disgusted” by the parliamentary process that’s unfolded since the 2010 hung election.
He said it was “the worst parliament that I’ve been in”, since first elected as the Federal MP for the Queensland rural seat of Wide Bay in 1990.
“It’s really been two and a half years of chaos and there’s never really been any order and of course the nature of the current parliament is contributing to that chaos.
“That’s the way the Labor party has been operating for a long period of time but people are sick of it and want change.”
Mr Truss also warned rural voters to be wary of any promises made by the Greens leader Christine Milne that her party had embraced farmers and the regions, with a new agenda following Bob Brown’s resignation last year.
“The Greens always say they are going to embrace agriculture and the rural sector but they’re really only out there in the regions when there’s something to protest about,” he said.