Article by: Hari Yellina
If Labor gains power, Anthony Albanese will create a $500 million fund to stimulate farm investment and set aside $656 million for a regional telecommunications package. Mr Albanese said the National Reconstruction Fund would put aside money exclusively for agricultural, forestry, fisheries, food and fibre sectors, speaking at a National Farmers Federation conference in Canberra. The fund’s goal is to give loans, equity, and assurances to investors who are starting new firms or recuperating from the pandemic’s stress. “This will encourage value-added investment and increased exports. It will help expand the sector and open up new trading opportunities “he stated.
Mr Albanese also unveiled a strategy to boost mobile coverage across Australia, which includes a $400 million fund to increase multi-carrier mobile coverage and a blackspot assessment. “This is a thorough, targeted strategy that will improve cell service on roads, farms, and across regional areas – as well as better broadband,” stated the federal opposition leader. When asked if he would abolish the agriculture worker visa if elected, Mr Albanese assured a crowd of farmers and stakeholders that he would create a better system. “The ag visa isn’t genuine right now… we’ll sit down with you and come up with a suitable structure,” he told the conference.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has previously chastised the Australian Workers’ Union for opposing the visa. “At the present, our industry’s main restriction is the labour force. I’m glad to tell that I never quit up on obtaining an agricultural visa “he stated “I’m not going to make electoral promises and commitments; we’re going to act, and we’re going to act with $21 billion in regional and rural investment in this year’s budget.” Farmers have identified five priority areas that they believe must be addressed in order for agriculture to grow, including a $5 billion rural telecoms fund to boost connectivity in distant areas of Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the conference in a pre-recorded speech that the government had invested $100 billion in regional Australia since 2013 and was dedicated to doing more. Natural calamities and the COVID-19 pandemic had strained the country’s resources. “Yet, through it all, we have confirmed one basic reality – Australia’s strength, our resilience,” said Mr Morrison. The value of farm production is expected to reach $81 billion this year, making rural industry a critical component of the government’s economic strategy. “(My administration) understands that Australia is much more than our eight big cities… our nation’s wealth is concentrated in the areas,” Mr Morrison said.