Barnaby Joyce supports foreign investment

“Sometimes the greatest inhibitor of growth in this country is government,” Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce has told a CEDA agribusiness event in Brisbane.

"We've got to decide whether we want to move this agenda forward or whether we want to use a whole form of regulation (which) in some instances just tie us back," he said.

Mr Joyce said the fundamentals for a flexible and dynamic agriculture industry are affordable finance, low regulation, pertinent infrastructure and labour and these should be on the reform agenda.

Mr Joyce also said he supports foreign investment in Australia.

"Of course we are going to have foreign investment, we are going to have foreign investment for as long as we are here," he said.

"We are always going to be attracting capital because we don't have as much as we need of our own."

However, Mr Joyce warned both major parties against absolutist positions on foreign investment.

"We've got to be cautious, we've got to be sure that we don't just have this absolutist position on either side because absolutist positions get you into trouble," he said.

It is a highly competitive global market and Australia must be able to compete and maintain a strong agriculture industry, he said.

"You've got to understand that ultimately it's a brutal world out there and we've got to always play to our national interests and…make sure we have the capacity to control our destiny," he said.

Also discussing foreign investment, Corish Group Chairman Peter Corish said it has played a significant part in the development of Australian agribusiness.

Mr Corish said the government will have a difficult task getting public support, given 60 per cent of the population is opposed to foreign investment.

"I believe that we need foreign investment so I think industry and government have got a job to do in actually making sure the debate is based on fact and is relevant," he said.

On investment into agriculture, Mr Corish said it is desperately needed and the industry is "starved for new capital".

"We need to be encouraging new capital into agriculture from all sources whether it be from offshore investments, superannuation fund investments, mum and dad…or direct investment," he said.

Policy needs to have a forward thinking approach to future proof agribusiness, he said.

"We need to take a big picture approach to future policy decision making for Australian agriculture," he said.

"We need to very much focus on competitiveness, productivity gains and future productivity gains for research and development."

In the context of the global market and increased competition, Australia needs to sell aspects of its agriculture such as its cleanliness, green production, bio-security and good conditions for workers to help sell products.

"If we are going to compete with producers in lower costing producing countries, we've got to get out there and sell the benefits of Australian agriculture," he said.  

CEDA members can access full presentations and audio from speakers here.

National Agribusiness Series

National Agribusiness Series forums held around the country in May and June include Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.