Friday, 29 July 2022
Commonwealth, state, and territory agriculture ministers met virtually on Wednesday 20 July 2022 for a 'new look' Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting (AMM). It was the first AMM for 2022 and the first chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt.
Minister Watt welcomed new members and returning members.
Ministers welcomed the opportunity to work in a more collaborative and cooperative manner, and committed to meeting regularly to address the challenges of mutual concern facing Australian agriculture.
With new membership – and a different set of challenges since agriculture ministers last met – ministers took the opportunity to outline the priorities in each of their jurisdictions. Biosecurity, agricultural workforce issues and climate change are nationwide challenges that ministers agreed to tackle together.
Agriculture ministers acknowledged the seriousness of the biosecurity threats at Australia’s doorstep, recognising biosecurity is a shared responsibility between governments, industry and the community. Ministers acknowledged the significant work of all jurisdictions to prepare and respond to pest and disease threats including foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease, khapra beetle and African swine fever.
Dr Mark Schipp, the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer briefed ministers on biosecurity challenges and threats, particularly foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease.
Ministers acknowledged the dynamic biosecurity landscape and discussed the need to be prepared for a coordinated national response. Ministers agreed to work together to scope a national exercise to ensure Australia is as prepared as possible for a significant outbreak of foot and mouth disease and other priority pests and diseases. Ministers requested advice from officials as a priority, for further consideration of arrangements and scheduling.
Ministers also discussed a range of options to enhance public awareness and other efforts to support preparedness, including additional measures at the national border, Australia’s mRNA vaccine capability and the need for a coordinated approach to assess potential mitigation measures. Ministers tasked officials with preparing advice for future consideration as a priority.
Ministers also discussed Varroa mite, fruit fly and red imported fire ants. Ministers commended Minister Saunders on the NSW Government’s response to the Varroa mite incursion and acknowledged the cross-jurisdictional cooperation to date. Fruit fly will be further discussed by senior officials.
Agriculture ministers recognised the importance of livestock traceability for increasing preparedness for foot and mouth and other animal diseases, and to effective disease response. Ministers agreed in-principle to advance work on a national approach to Australia’s livestock traceability systems noting the urgent need for a national mandatory individual identification system for sheep and goats that is practical to implement, industry led and cost efficient (following Victoria’s earlier introduction of these arrangements). Officials have been tasked by ministers with further work on implementation options and funding arrangements – to be discussed between the Commonwealth, jurisdictions, and relevant industries, at the next AMM to be held in the coming weeks.
National Biosecurity Strategy
Ministers discussed and agreed in-principle to the draft National Biosecurity Strategy – the first for Australia. Ministers commended the collaborative effort by citizens, industry and community groups together with research bodies – including through a dedicated reference group – to get to this point. This strategy will offer a critical roadmap to build a stronger and better coordinated national system to deal with current and emerging pressures. The emergence of foot and mouth disease in our near neighbours, together with the incursion of Varroa mite in New South Wales, reaffirm this. Ministers noted the important role for all parties in guiding implementation of this strategy, and agreed to the development of an implementation plan to enable ongoing monitoring of progress against the strategy. Governments will work with key stakeholders to support its finalisation and formal launch in the near future.
Agriculture ministers agreed workforce shortages are one of the biggest issues facing agricultural industries. Ministers noted the need for collective action to ensure Australians are supported to undertake the necessary training and upskilling for careers in agriculture, businesses can access overseas workers where there is a genuine need, and robust protections are in place to protect vulnerable workers. Minister Watt noted the Australian Government’s election commitments to expand and improve the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme to ensure businesses can access workers, particularly for seasonal jobs, and that workforce issues will be discussed at the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit. Agriculture ministers agreed tackling workforce availability issues will be an ongoing priority for AMM, with senior officials to continue this work.
Ministers affirmed their strong commitment to action on climate change, and desire to show greater urgency pursuing opportunities and addressing the challenges Australian agriculture faces. Ministers noted that agriculture sectors have already been proactive in both adapting to climate change and playing their part in mitigating carbon emissions. Ministers acknowledged work under the existing work plan and thanked Minister Tierney for the Victorian Government’s leadership on agriculture and climate change. Ministers requested a rapid stocktake of actions already underway under the work plan, for assurance that the key challenges are being addressed and so opportunities can be fully recognised – with Victoria to progress this work with other jurisdictions as a priority.
Ministers reflected on the National Drought Agreement (NDA) and restated the importance of preparing for drought. Ministers noted the NDA is under review and indicated they look forward to considering the NDA review report shortly.
Agriculture ministers will next meet virtually in the coming weeks, with Ministers noting there may be a need to convene additional virtual meetings to progress the agreed actions.
Ministers anticipate meeting in person later in 2022, in Western Australia over 2 days. This will be the first in-person AMM since 21 February 2020.
- Australian Government (Chair): Senator the Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
- New South Wales: The Hon Dugald Saunders MP, Minister for Agriculture
- Victoria: The Hon Gayle Tierney MLC, Minister for Agriculture
- Queensland: The Hon Mark Furner MP, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
- Western Australia: The Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Agriculture and Food
- South Australia: The Hon Clare Scriven MLC, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development
- Tasmania: The Hon Jo Palmer MLC, Minister for Primary Industries and Water
- Australian Capital Territory: Ms Rebecca Vassarotti MLA, Minister for the Environment
- Northern Territory: The Hon Paul Kirby MLA, Minister for Agribusiness and Fisheries