AFGC welcomes new Australian government reforms

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th September 2013

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has welcomed the focus on growth, trade and regulatory reform in the new Abbott Ministry, which will be sworn in today.

The AFGC said the food and grocery sector believed a “rebalancing of national priorities towards growth, jobs and regulatory reform was long overdue”.

Food and grocery companies looking for stability

The new Abbott Ministry will include Industry Minister Ian McFarlane, Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos.

“The clear signals from the new ministers are encouraging,” said Gary Dawson, AFGC CEO. “Food and grocery companies are looking for a return to certainty and stability from the government, and a focus on getting the policy settings right to boost confidence and promote investment and jobs,” he said.

“To that end, we strongly support priorities including the finalisation of stalled Free Trade Agreement talks, a rollback of costly unnecessary regulation, action to reduce energy costs, a tax reform white paper and a review of competition laws to help level the playing field where there is an imbalance in market power,” Mr Dawson said.

The AFGC said food and grocery manufacturing was Australia’s largest manufacturing sector, directly employing around 300,000 people and with annual turnover of $110 billion.

“It is the lifeblood of many regional economies, with numerous major food processing plants located outside the metropolitan areas, and makes up half the total industry employment in regional Australia,” Mr Dawson said.

“Right now the industry is facing massive challenges from high costs, the high Australian dollar and retail price deflation squeezing profitability. Key food processing capabilities are at risk of being lost altogether, with the flow on loss of jobs and opportunities extending into the farm supply base,” Mr Dawson said. “It is also an industry with massive growth potential for the future, provided we can boost competitiveness and productivity, and open up market access in the growing economies of Asia,” he said.

New government focus on physical activity and health  

The appointment of Peter Dutton as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport has also been welcomed by the AFGC, which said the appointment was a “long overdue recognition of the importance of physical activity to the overall health of Australians”.

“Physical activity is a massive public health issue, gaining increasing recognition as an area needing urgent action,” Mr Dawson said.

“The AFGC has long advocated for a broader consideration of energy balance – the relationship between energy consumed and energy expended through physical activity – in the development of health policy, particularly in relation to obesity and the rise of non-communicable diseases,” Mr Dawson said.

The AFGC said the appointment of Senator Fiona Nash as Assistant Health Minister was “great news for Australia’s farmers and food processors” because Senator Nash brought to the role a “passionate commitment to Australia’s farm and food production future”.

“Regulatory settings are a major influence on the competitiveness of Australia’s food processing sector,” Mr Dawson said. “The appointments of both Peter Dutton and Senator Nash are a very positive sign that the new government will take a balanced approach to food regulation, consistent with its election commitments to take into account the impact of excessive regulation on the competitiveness of Australia’s farm and food processing sectors,” he said.

AFGC has welcomed new Australian Gov't reforms