Agriculture Ministers' Forum

27 April 2018

Agricultural ministers and representatives from Australia and New Zealand met in Brisbane, Queensland on 27 April 2018 for the sixth meeting of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum. The meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud MP.

Ministers addressed a number of key priorities for the agriculture portfolio and began with an update on a number of biosecurity matters.

Ministers reviewed the draft intergovernmental agreement on biosecurity (IGAB 2), which is intended to be signed by first ministers by the end of 2018. This responds to the recommendations from a recent review of the national biosecurity system chaired by Dr Wendy Craik. Ministers also noted progress on the development of a National Biosecurity Statement, with public consultation currently underway.

Ministers noted that Australia’s access to premium markets for horticultural products is reliant on effective management of fruit flies, particularly fruit fly pest free areas, and discussed work underway to improve Australia’s fruit fly management system.

Ministers agreed to develop a nationally coordinated approach to support the agriculture sector to adapt to climate change.

Market access matters were discussed including progress of the recently signed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP-11) and the status of Australia’s free trade agreements. To support current and future trading partner needs, Australian ministers noted the work of a review of Australia’s traceability systems for agriculture and discussed early findings.

The review of the intergovernmental agreement (IGA)​ on national drought program reform was noted by ministers. Extending the current IGA, which expires on 1 July 2018, until a new agreement has been finalised was agreed by ministers. Preparatory work on the new IGA was discussed.

Minsters agreed to continue working towards nationally harmonised farm debt mediation by re-committing to a set of standard principles and exploring how to best implement these. Recent developments at the Commonwealth level in banking and dispute resolution matters, including the establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) and the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, were noted.

Ministers agreed a proposal to harmonise the licensing and training requirements for agriculture chemical spray contractors and to harmonise veterinary practices. The reforms are to be implemented within four years.

Following recent actions from the Australian Government to improve the welfare of animals during live export, members discussed a future work program for animal welfare including the process by which national standards are further developed.

Ministers agreed to further develop resource sharing arrangements for the recreational catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna and noted the need to engage the recreational sector on these arrangements.

The report of the National Advocate for Soil Health—Restore the Soil: Prosper the Nation was noted. Ministers thanked the soil advocate, Major-General the Hon. Michael Jeffrey, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Ret’d), for his contribution to policy developments in soil science.

Other matters considered by ministers were the aquatic animal health deed, red imported fire ant eradication program, national carp control program, progress on the Export Control Bill 2017, the organic export orders review, antimicrobial resistance and the genetically modified organism’s national review.