Supply chain infrastructure needs ongoing investment, Treasury tells VFF

Wednesday 1 March 2017

THE Federal Government needs to embrace all forms of investment to help fund supply chain infrastructure, the country’s top treasury official has told Victorian Farmers Federation members.

Treasury Secretary John Fraser appeared at the VFF Grains Conference this week and discussed the importance of rural infrastructure investment as a shift in population growth from city to regional centres needs to occur over the next few years.

VFF Grains Group President Ross Johns said Mr Fraser’s lecture hit home the need to ensure rural infrastructure is equipped to cope with the demands of growing population and productivity.

“Regional Victoria is facing a number of infrastructure priorities, challenges, and opportunities,” Mr Johns said.

“We need federal support to improve the State’s rail freight network, roads and bridges, and telecommunications infrastructure, and in Victoria we’re not getting enough bang from our taxes to fund these projects.”

Questions from the audience included observations about foreign investment in prime agricultural land and the Federal Government’s policy on international investment, which requires any purchase worth more than $15 million to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Mr Fraser said he made no apology for Treasurer Scott Morrison’s stance on the issue but noted that as a trading nation, Australia needs to utilise mobility of capital, labour and exports.

Mr Johns said during the conference there was spirited debate around the need for supply chain infrastructure upgrades, with slow progress on the Murray Basin Rail Project and the heat restrictions on the V/Line service singled out for criticism.

“Farmers are constantly investing in new technology to become more efficient and remain competitive in world markets while we have a rail network that can’t operate in temperatures over 33 degrees,” he said.

“A railway that is shut down on moderately hot days during harvest is hardly a ‘fit for purpose’ system.”

The discussion at the Grains Conference came as Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development official Mark Thomann on Monday told the Senate Committee on
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport that Victoria would only receive 7.7 per cent of the Federal Government’s $26.5 billion infrastructure budget during 2016-2020.

Mr Johns said these figures showed the Government was taking Victoria for granted.

“We produce 27 per cent of Australia’s food and fibre exports, and Victoria is home to a quarter of the country’s population, yet we’re getting less than 10 per cent of the Federal Government infrastructure budget,” he said.

“This does not make us competitive compared to other states and we need to look seriously at investment opportunities.”

Media Contacts:

Ross Johns, VFF Grains Group President: 0417 909 225

Ashley Mackinnon, VFF Public Affairs Officer: 0417 165 784