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This is where we tell the truth about Malcolm and Luke’s scare campaigns:

  1. Pensioners and dividend imputation
  2. Electricity prices
  3. Labor and agriculture

1. Pensioners and dividend imputation

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Labor is cracking down on a loophole that gives tax refunds to people who have a lot of wealth but don’t pay any income tax.

This loophole will soon cost $8 billion a year – more than we spend on public schools, or child care. It’s three times what we spend on the Australian Federal Police.

Most of these funds go straight into the pockets of a few very wealthy people who are already very comfortable. In fact, 80 per cent of the benefit accrues to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees.

Labor believes that scarce taxpayer dollars can be better spent on improving schools and cutting hospital waiting lists – so that’s what we are doing.

Labor will close the loophole so that people who don’t pay income tax don’t get a tax refund – and spend the money on schools and hospitals instead.

Labor will introduce a new Pensioner Guarantee – protecting pensioners from Labor’s changes to excess dividend imputation credits.

The proposal announced by the Australian Labor Party to stop refunding imputation credits even where no tax has been paid by an investor will have little or no impact on the super of most Australians and the savings could modernise the super system if re-invested“. Industry Super Australia, 13 March 2018.

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2. Electricity prices

Labor will not stand by and let family budgets be crushed and businesses wrecked by power price hikes. Labor will work to make electricity more affordable by re-regulating the electricity market. Our plan will:

  • help households and businesses struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living under the Berejiklian Government;
  • ensure greater transparency around the huge profits the big energy companies make; and
  • ensure consumers are treated fairly and stop price gouging by the big energy companies.

This includes by cracking down on excessive profits; requiring truth in the advertising of discounts being offered to customers to ensure they are real discounts on what customers are already paying; keeping basic services at a set price for every customer, and ensuring offers from different energy companies can be easily compared.

Labor also recognises the immediate need for more energy generation that can reliably contribute towards meeting demand, to avoid a repeat of the widespread blackouts and major power outages earlier this year in NSW.

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3. Labor and agriculture

Protecting environment protects food and profits

Joel Fitzgibbon is the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Australia.

 

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Joel Fitzgibbon and Andrew Woodward in Bellingen

 

Last week’s episode of the ABC’s 4 Corners must surely shake the stubborn, ignorant and lazy out of their slumber and denial.  Hopefully, more people will now join the many – including progressive farmers – who understand that government inaction is adding to the significant environmental issues the agriculture sector now faces.

Salinity, degradation, river health, soil health and a changing climate are problems known to most Australians.  What have been less obvious are the inevitable consequences of policy inaction: lower farm productivity; lower farm profitability; less export income; and potentially, threats to our own food, soil and water security.  Forget the so-called “dining boom,” we seem more intent on “dining doom”.

Most Australians think our country is rich in soil and water resources. But Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and we’ve been killing our limited soil resources with European farming practices for more than 200 years. Some believe we can deliver more water by building more dams, but in many cases, changing the natural flow of our waterways only adds to the environmental damage already affecting our farming future. The reality is that with the right determination, we can improve our soils and their moisture retention quicker and cheaper than we can build catchment dams.

Given the huge challenges, one would expect the government has a plan. It does not. The Turnbull government is captured by its climate change deniers and an out-of-touch National Party. It’s fiddling around the edges on mitigation and doing next to nothing on adaptation. It is disinterested in natural resource allocation policy and does nothing to encourage better farming practices. Indeed as Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, Barnaby Joyce proclaimed more dams, more land clearing and a weaker Murray Darling Basin Plan was the formula for sustainable profitability in the agriculture sector.

In government, Labor put in place policies on both the mitigation and adaptation sides of the equation: a price on carbon; higher renewables energy targets; renewables investment incentives; carbon farming; and grants for better natural resource management, rehabilitation and the adoption of sustainable farming practices. Many of these initiatives were funded by the revenue the government received from the price it had imposed on carbon emissions.

With bipartisan support and the backing of the National Farmers’ Federation, the former Labor government jettisoned the old, expensive and ineffective drought policy framework that had failed taxpayers and farmers alike.

We must not only ensure our water and soil resources are used in a sustainable manner, we must encourage the best economic use of them.  This is the less obvious effect of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Yes, it is an environmental project, but it’s also a market mechanism for increasing value capture. The future of Australian agriculture does not lay so much in a quest to export more and more commodities into commodity markets in which we are price-takers. Rather, fulfilling our aspirations will come through a focus on niche products that deliver a higher economic return.

That will require us to do more to protect our key competitive advantage; our reputation as a provider of clean, green, safe and high-quality food. That won’t be possible if we do not protect our natural environment.

10 point plan for Australian agriculture

What’s in a number? In 2013 the National Farmers’ Federation released its “Blueprint for Australian Agriculture”.

It was a good document advocating seven key themes; Innovation, Research, Development and Extension, Competitiveness, Trade and Market Access, People, Agriculture in Society, Natural Resources and Transformational Issues. The document received broad industry support.

Speaking in the Parliament recently I produced another number; a ten-point plan for Australia’s agriculture sector. I told my colleagues that to meet our aspirations to secure higher and more sustainable profitability we need to:

  1. Establish high-level government policy guidance;
  2. Restore a genuine and effective COAG process;
  3. Strengthen our biosecurity to protect our reputation as a provider of clean, green, safe high-quality food;
  4. Adapt to a changing climate and tackle drought;
  5. Pursue a vigorous productivity agenda;
  6. Embrace more efficient and more sustainable land use practices;
  7. Further develop market mechanisms to maximise the efficient allocation of natural resources;
  8. Encourage the pursuit for higher value products and markets;
  9. Increase our efforts to reduce non-tariff barriers in export markets; and,
  10. Lift our research, innovation and extension efforts.

I was at pains to point out to the House that my list was not intended to be exhaustive. For example, there are many other issues critical for our farm sector but fall under the responsibility of other Minsters and Departments; road, rail and ports infrastructure, connectivity, tariff barriers, workface issues and taxation policy to name just a few.

All of my ten points were consistent with the aspirations and policy directions highlighted in the NFF’s Blueprint. But what I was focusing on in my speech is the matters which fall within the responsibilities of the Minister for Agriculture and the policy areas I would make a priority if given the chance to serve once again in that role.I was recently pressed to nominate just three things that will most determine our future success in food and fiber production. As reluctant as I was to accept the challenge to provide such a short list, I nominated science, innovation and a willingness to embrace change. On reflection, I’m quite comfortable with my response. I’m convinced we can’t achieve a lift in productivity and sustainable profitability without a full embrace of science, innovation and change.

However, if I had my time over I may have first asked; “what do you mean by future success”? While we rightly focus on income and profit, success also means guaranteeing our food security. We are too quick to assume food security could never be a problem for Australia.

While as a net exporter it is true we are exceptionally well placed; a changing world and climatic environment dictates our future food requirements should always be a part of our policy conversation.

The good news is, the prescriptions for both sustainable profitability and food security are much the same and can be found in the 10 points I recently shared with the Parliament.

 

News Release: Joel Fitzgibbon on Labor Agriculture Minister’s Meeting (26 April 2018)

Today I met with Labor State Agriculture Ministers.

Joining me were the Hon. Mark Furner MP (Qld), the Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC (W.A.) and the Hon. Jaala Pulford MLC (Vic).

Labor representatives discussed the need to restore a formal COAG process as a means of strengthening and deepening Commonwealth-State cooperation in agriculture policy.

Representatives also agree that:

  • Renewing the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity should be a priority;
  • A greater emphasis on natural resource management and climate change action should be a key priority for Commonwealth and State Ministers;
  • Greater cooperation on workforce skills and capacity challenges was required;
  • A formal productivity agenda should be developed through the COAG process;
  • There is a need to maximise cooperation between Government and industry on research, development, innovation and extension;
  • A science based approach to national standards for animal welfare including live animal exports is a matter of urgency; and
  • Governments can play a role in making Australian farmers leaders in the adoption of digital technologies.

Updated: 27 April 2018