Address at the 2022 CropLife Agricultural Industry Federal Budget Breakfast at the National Press Club in Canberra

30 March 2022

LUCY BARBOUR:    Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Hope you've enjoyed your breakfasts. Welcome to another year of CropLife's Agricultural Industry Federal Budget Breakfast. I'm sure you're all stoked to be here. I think the third budget in four years not in the traditional budget week, which, of course, only us in the bubble would get a kick out of. 

I'm Lucy Barbour, I'm from the ABC, and I'm also President of the National Rural Press Club. I'd like to acknowledge that today we meet on Ngunnawal land and pay my respects to elders past and present. 

We thank the National Press Club and Morris Riley for their support in hosting today's event. And also, as I mentioned, the National Rural Press Club is a partner with CropLife today. 

With us today in the room, we're obviously very delighted to have the Honourable David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture, Drought, and Emergency Management, and we look forward to hearing from the Minister shortly. He assures me he's going to make his patent box a sexy headline. So we're looking forward to hearing all about that. I'd like to also acknowledge that a number of his parliamentary colleagues are also with us in the room this morning. May I especially note the Honourable Michelle Landry who has been a very committed supporter of this event. 

We're also very pleased to have with us today Miss Annette King, New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia, and Argentina's Ambassador, Maximo Gowland. 

I welcome also Governance Chair of CropLife Australia, Mr Gavin Jackson; CEO of CropLife, Mr Matthew Cossey, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Mr Andrew Metcalfe; the CEO of the National Farmers Federation, Tony Mahar; and a number of members of the CropLife Board and membership. It's great to have you all here too. 

I'd ask you all to please ensure your mobile phones are on silent and, of course, feel free to continue enjoying your breakfast while we hear from our two speakers this morning. 

Before we hear from the Minister for Agriculture, I'll hand over to Matthew Cossey, CEO of CropLife Australia, who, I think, with this being the twelfth Agricultural Industry Federal Budget Breakfast, needs no introduction. Thank you, Matthew.

MATTHEW COSSEY:    Thank you, Lucy. And may I say how great it is to have you back there reporting for the ABC. 

I would like to acknowledge the original farmers of the land that we're meeting on, the Ngunnawal people, and acknowledge their leaders past, present, and emerging.

Minister Littleproud, Assistant Minister Landry, members of Parliament from all three major parties, Secretary of the Department, Mr Andrew Metcalfe, Mr Tony Mahar, CEO of the National Farmers Federation, Your Excellency, special guest, ladies, gentlemen 

On behalf of the Board and members of CropLife Australia, I am very pleased that you're able to join us here again this morning at the National Press Club of Australia for our Agricultural Industry Federal Budget Breakfast - the third, actually astonishingly, in only 18 months. The- and in that, also acknowledge the great support of our hosts here. 

CropLife Australia is very pleased to, again, host this event and to be supported by both the National Rural Press Club and the National Press Club of Australia, and I thank Mr Morris Riley, CEO, and his team for being like ag people and getting up this early. 

The- I'd like to also acknowledge, as Lucy has, CropLife's Governance Chair, Mr Gavin Jackson, the Chair of Agsafe, our stewardship organisation, Mr Darren Hinds, along with several of our other Board members and heads of member companies who have also joined us here in Canberra today. It's only, actually, with their support that CropLife can host this event.

Well, talk about of drought and flooding rains. If only Dorothy Mackellar had also referenced global pandemics and geopolitical conflict, the lines of the poem would have been the perfect summary for the last few years. 

Amongst the challenges of worker shortages, supply chain interruptions, border closures, politically driven trade barriers, and extraordinarily challenging weather conditions, Australia's agriculture sector has continued to feed and clothe the country and maintain a strong national export position. Never before has good policy, efficient regulatory systems, and an equally efficient and improving Federal Agriculture Department been so important to and for Australian farming, and through it, the nation. 

With a federal election in the wings, apparently even very close according to the Federal Treasurer, it is only right that agriculture features as a priority. While more Australians have tried their hand at a bit of home veggie gardening during lockdowns, it still remains a reality that, ultimately, as I referenced last year, we rely on relatively- a relatively small number of people to feed us all. Less than half of 1 per cent of Australia's population produces all the food, animal feed, and fibre for the rest of the nation. This reliance on so few makes the public policy environment in which farming operates even more important. The dedication, hard work, skills, experience of our farmers is unrivalled. 

However, they don't operate in a vacuum. Capital investment, new technology, and science driven innovation underpin the ability for our farmers to continually improve their productivity, profitability, and environmental sustainability. Input industries such as ours, the plant science sector, enable farmers to grow high quality, high yielding crops even more profitably. 

In Australia, like the rest of the developed world, food has never been safer, and never has there been such a variety of produce available to consumers, even in periods of supply chain disruption. 

Australia's agricultural sector will continue to grow with confidence in delivering for Australian consumers as long as there is access to technologies that successfully manage and mitigate the ever evolving challenges that farmers face. That cannot be taken for granted. 

Food security is akin to national security, is indeed a core part of it, which is why issues of access to safe and secure food supply is so critical. Nutritious and affordable food for all Australians should indeed be a bipartisan issue. The foundation of agriculture is in co-existence, and the challenge ahead is too great to be distracted by anything that is not based on good data and proven science. 

And industry alone cannot be responsible for bringing Australian agriculture into and through the next farming revolution if we are to meet the National Farmers Federation target of exceeding $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. Federal and state governments, Commonwealth and state departments, and public and private, academic and research institutions will all need to play a crucial role. 

Last night's Budget and the Government's priorities, including those for the farming sector, set the scene as we work through COVID recovery into the next phase, one that I think we can all be optimistic about. 

Minister Littleproud, here today in this room you have, essentially, personified the dedication, hard work, skills, experience, capital, science, and technology that enable our agricultural sector. We are most appreciative that you're able to join us here again this morning - I think you are getting a lot of frequent flyer points for this breakfast. Three in just 18 months, that means that you now hold the record for highest average of any Ag Minister since the event started. We look forward to hearing from you on the Government's budget priorities for agriculture and the issues top of mind for you in this upcoming election. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, the Honourable David Littleproud.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD:    Well, thanks- Thank you, Matthew. Can I firstly acknowledge the traditional owners on the land in which we meet? Can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues, in particular Assistant Minister Landry? To Your Excellency's - both from New Zealand and Argentina - the Departments. But to you, ladies and gentlemen of the agricultural sector, on behalf of a grateful nation, I say thank you. 

For the first time in our nation's history, Australian agriculture will hit over $80 billion worth of output. That's not because of Government. That's because of you. Our job is simply to put the environment and infrastructure around you to achieve that, and you have achieved that under circumstances Australian agriculture probably hasn't seen before. The extent of fires, floods, cyclones, mice, and even COVID 19.

When many other industries were forced under the doona because of COVID-19, you kept on producing. You kept on exporting. You kept on ensuring that this nation paid its bills. And the budget last night is a reflection of your hard work. It is a repayment of the dividends you have paid this nation, particularly over the last two years, but well beyond. It is now an acknowledgement of the powerhouse of Australian agriculture and the regions and the role that we play in paying the bills, but also ensuring that we have a stronger nation. And so to each and every one of you, I say thank you. 

And our job is to make sure that that environment and infrastructure is put around you to be able to achieve your goals - Australia's goals - and we've done that through our Ag2030 plan. And last night was an extension of what, over the last three appearances I've had here, another $600 million on top of the billions of dollars we put into the last two budgets for regional Australia. 

But that only goes some ways to what was announced last night. There was additional billions of dollars of infrastructure that I'll get to in a second. But the 600 million last night is putting that environment around you, putting the environment around you to succeed.

And so under our Ag2030 plan, one of the key pillars is trade. And while we've faced challenges from trade over the last couple of years, the strength and the work that we've done previously, in previous budgets - over $330 million in the last budget around making sure that we have a digital platform that is fit for the future that makes it easier to export around the world from here, make it easy for people to export from Australia and farmers to participate. We built last night another $267 million to ensure that we have a platform that will ensure Australian agricultural exports can continue to move freely, efficiently and, for you, profitably. Part of that was $127 million to go to the farm gate - to go to you. 

We're going to create a digital platform for farmers to understand their farming opportunities to export. If you're a nectarine farmer and you want to understand where you can export, you will have your own profile under this platform where you'll be able to engage with the Department, to understand the opportunities of where you can export under your current practices. And if you were to change and or add another few practices or other numerous practices, the- extra markets that you could actually tap into as well. 

This is about empowering you. This is about empowering you to pick your markets - not to be locked in to two big Australian supermarkets and a big German, but to empower Australian farmers to decide where their produce goes to for the best price - to bring competition, competitive tension to the marketplace. But it also means that Australian farmers get more for the reward of their effort, and our nation does as well.

Trade will continue to be at the centrepiece of Australian agriculture. And I'm proud to say that over the last 12 months our trade's increased by 47 per cent. Despite the challenges of China, we were able to pivot and send boats left and right because of the quality of our product, but also because of the investments we have made previously. We put more Agricultural Counsellors on the ground that have meant that we've been able to get better market access immediately. We were able to send boats for the first time into Mexico with barley on it. New agreements with Saudi Arabia - 750,000 tonnes into Saudi Arabia - in fact, getting longer shelf life extension in Saudi Arabia for our meat as well. 

These are what the men and women in these embassies and high commissions, the 22 of them around the world, that are doing for Australian agriculture to be giving us the opportunity to pivot. We're not a bulk producer, we're a high-end producer, and so our product is highly sought after. But we had to have that environment to have people on the ground, to be able to give you the opportunity to pivot when there were challenges, and to diversify.

Governments will never tell you where you should export to. That is a commercial decision that is yours and yours alone to make. But our responsibility in putting that environment around you is to spread the risk and to open the opportunities. And we've signed free trade agreement number 15 with the UK, and we're working hard with India. That is our job to put the environment around you, to give you the opportunity to diversify, to you to choose where you want to send your product to. And I've got to say, when we've got an increase of 47 per cent in our exports despite the challenges of China, not only have we done well, but you've done well and our nation's done well. 

But underpinning that, underpinning brand Australia is our biosecurity. And I'm proud to say over the last two budgets over $1 billion worth of new measures - because, there are evolving threats and we are evolving with them. We are using world class technology, and shifting technology and shifting the boundaries around the world of how you look at biosecurity. These threats are on our doorstep, some of which will just blow in.

But those that come through the borders, we have to improve our capacity to be able to catch as much as we can. And we've done that with over $1 billion of your money. And this is using intelligence and technology. We're now being able to trace containers further back then- that's the shipment of where they've come. We're now going back three, four years to understand whether there is a risk from where that container was three or four years ago - not just where they've come from, the port they've come from into Australia. And that's making sure that we can put resources where they need to. 

We're going to go from around 5 million containers to 8.5 million containers by the end of the decade. You simply cannot open up every container and check it - that's impractical. Our economy would fall apart. But having the intelligence to understand where a container has been for three to four years is pivotal in using the resources wisely to ensure that we can get people on the ground quickly to be able to eradicate the risk. That's an enormous step forward.

And we're challenging science about how do we actually increase the capacity even more on those containers. We can't use X-rays in the steel containers. We're using cameras that go around these containers now, that gives us on the external extremities a look. But inside is very difficult. And the chief scientists recently posed the challenge to me that there could be an opportunity around taking air samples out of the air vents and get minuscule particles of organic matter, plant matter, animal matter in these containers. That'd be a huge step forward to be able to have greater capacity of those containers. 

But what we have increased the capacity of is at our postal services. All 144 million parcels that go through Australia Post will go through a three-day X-ray scanner with artificial intelligence that the Department of Agriculture created themselves. This is a world first.

But we've gone further than just going to parcels. We're now trialling with New Zealand, and there will be in Auckland Airport. The Australian Government is going- moving away from physical paper declaration cards to digital declaration cards when you get on a plane. And when you do your digital card, we've also going to have a three-day X-ray scanner at Auckland Airport. And your bag will go through that scanner, and we'll know by the time you're sitting on that plane to Brisbane, to Sydney, to Melbourne, what you've declared and what's in your bag. And if it doesn't marry up, we're coming for you. And we've already come for 15 people. In fact, we sent one young gentleman, a student home last week. He came in with 10 kilos of meat. He's not welcome here for three years. We lifted the penalties and we are making it clear to them, he can do his university course online for as- all we care. A foot and mouth disease would cost this country over $50 billion, ISF over $2 billion. All we are saying is if you declare, we'll respect it. If you don't declare, then you're not welcome. Those are the strong messages

And last night we added more money in understanding those evolving threats, particularly for northern Australia and those threats that could blow in. And so $61 million in making sure we have more surveillance on the ground, making sure that we have more rangers, more eradication of those pests that may harbour these diseases. And we're working with countries that have had pests and diseases - in particular Indonesia, who've just announced lumpy spot.

We've sent our chief veterinary officer to Vietnam- to Indonesia and to Singapore to help them understand the level of threat and what role Australia can play. But this can actually just blow into this country. And that's why we're putting boots on the ground across northern Australia to protect the cattle industry, to make sure that if we do find an incursion, we can contain it quickly and we can eradicate and protect the rest of our export markets.

But those are the practical steps that we'll continue to make - or whether it's Japanese encephalitis, $69 million, not just in a human health response, but in agricultural response. This is about making sure that we have the agility to move quickly. And we're moving quickly, but we also need our state friends to work with us. Sadly, some of their funding has reduced. And let me tell you, that poses a real significant live risk to Australian agriculture, because we rely on them, we rely on them in the instance to have their DPI officers on the ground to be able to help, to trace, and to contain and to eradicate. But if they don't have those boots on the ground, then it's very difficult for us to be able to coordinate.

Wendy Craig put a report out in 2018 that said that we should all maintain at 2016-17 levels of funding for biosecurity, state and federal. Federal Government's gone well and beyond. Some states are now dropping behind, and it's important that they understand the risk that they pose to Australian agriculture in what they are doing. And yesterday we also announced another $20 million to help- and to help them, but they're going to have to cut the cheque with us. $20 million around traceability. One of the things that the chief vet officer said to me recently when we're talking about lumpy skin is that there is now mutations of some of these diseases that are going- that are just unique to cattle that are now jumping across into other species. And so if we don't have a secure traceability program, one in which is not just for one sector but across sectorial, then we open up those risks to the entire agricultural sector, not just one.

And so we posed an opportunity. This $20 million is about empowering farmers to put the infrastructure on their properties, to participate in traceability, whether that be ear tags, whether that be in the hort sector, whether that be in the cane sector. This is about empowering them to have their solutions, because we aren't the ones that can fix everyone's problem. You have to have a little bit of self-responsibility as well, and we're giving them the incentive to do it. So biosecurity is one of the things that keep me up at night, but the investments that we're making and the speed in which we're making them is giving me greater comfort. And the fact that we're leading the world with technology and intelligence means that we're better placed to handle a biosecurity outbreak than any other country in the world.

Also underpinning brand Australia is our stewardship. One of the greatest legacies I believe I'll leave as Australian Agriculture Minister, is the Biodiversity Stewardship Program. This is about rewarding farmers for the stewardship of their land. And this is not just looking at us abating carbon. That's a blunt instrument. That's a '90s model. We're leading the world. We are the first country in the world that can measure an improvement in biodiversity. It is world-breaking science that we've created here in this country. So we should be paid for it. Not me, not the government, but you, the Australian steward of the land, the Australian farmer. And so we've created the Carbon Plus Biodiversity Program, and we've got pilots running around the country now, and part of last night's announcement is around creating the trading platform, the trading platform that'll look a lot like eBay, whereby a farmer will be able to sit down and work out the carbon farming project plus the biodiversity - so they'll get two payments - and be able to put it on a trading platform at a margin they believe they can make a profit out of. And our big corporate - and we're saying to Business Council of Australia - it's time for the big corporates to actually come clean on their social licence, not to run off to Brazil and to buy an acre of the Amazon, but to support Australian agriculture in a sustainable way. And the biodiversity credits that have halos that no one else in the world has -to do that here. And part of the budget is not just about creating that market platform, but putting boots on the ground so that farmers are empowered to take these programs up themselves rather than having aggregators.

We're going to reach out to natural resource management groups, or farming cooperatives to pay them, to sit at farmers' kitchen table, to walk around their property and help them work through the complexity of an ERF project and help them do the application, so that they don't lose 30 to 70 per cent through a premium from an aggregator. They get the lot. This is about farmers being rewarded for the stewardship of their land. I have nothing against aggregators and they'll still play a role, but this is about making sure farmers have choice and have opportunity to be rewarded for the stewardship of their land. This isn't about taking away productive landscape. This is about looking at your landscape and looking at that part of your landscape that is costing you money, not making you money. And the third part of this, the third part- and the third payment will be a brand that will go live very soon, that we'll launch very soon. And it'll be a biodiversity seal that you'll be able to put on your beef, on your wall, on your sugar, on your wheat, that will be recognised internationally because we own the intellectual property. We're not playing by the world's rules. We're setting the world rules right here in Australia, because of the best minds in Australia have solved the problem and saw the opportunity to make sure that Australian farmers will be rewarded and then they set the international rules. And the world is looking at this and the intellectual property that they own, and they want it. And so we should be proud to make sure that that is protected and that farmers are rewarded.

And so this program has the capacity to make sure that farmers are not just rewarded but also receive- rewarded for their stewardship, but also receive a passive income stream. This is something in times of drought, they're still going to get a cheque year after year for. So these are the smarts that we're trying to work through. And we've used the best minds, and we're using those best minds also when it comes to innovation. This is the next pillar of Australian agriculture. This is where the new jobs of agriculture are. And over the last three years, I've been on a program of rediscovering how innovation systems should look like. Our 15 research and development corporations have done an outstanding job and have got us to where we are today, but they weren't fit for the future. And we went through a process that at times was challenging for them, but one in which they embrace. And now, I believe, we have reformed to a juncture that gives us the opportunity to create those new jobs, and we've done that with them. There's $1.1 billion a year that comes in levy payer money and taxpayer money. And so we had to get back to first principles - first principles is value to the levy payer, value to the taxpayer. Get rid of this duplication and commercialisation.

We have the same number of researchers as the United States and Netherlands, yet they're ranked four and six in the world, we're ranked number 23. So we've been bone lazy when it came to commercialisation. So we had to reset the rules. And the RDCs have worked with me on that and we've reset the rules. We now have a digital platform, a digital platform called Grow AG, where every piece of research undertaken by those 15 RDCs must be placed on the Grow AG website. Because previously, no one knew what anyone else is doing, and the reason for that is twofold. Firstly, to remove the duplication. And already, AIA has been able to intercept a number of research projects that were going to happen but would've happened had we not created Grow AG, saving millions of dollars in research dollars from Australian farmers and the taxpayer.

But it's also about commercialisation. It's about letting the world know what we do. And particularly in COVID, when they couldn't come and see us, to be able to understand what the best minds in Australian agriculture were doing, to be able to understand what we were doing and to see it online. And we've had over 100 commercial enquiries because of what we've been able to do, a simple idea of bringing it all into one platform, one digital platform. But then the most important step, going to be on that digital platform, to let the world know what we're doing so that they can also invest, that your levy dollar goes further, that your tax dollar goes further.

We've created physical hubs that they can come and feel and touch and see the research that we're undertaking. And we haven't done that in capital cities, we've done that in the regions. What a crazy idea, putting the research out in front of the people it's meant for. And so right across Australia, we've created eight innovation hubs. They were drought innovation hubs, but they're now evolving to innovation hubs. And what I want to see, and we are already seeing, is our RDCs starting to use them as the mechanism for their research and development. The mechanism that will continue to grow those universities that give young people an opportunity to go to uni in regional Australia, to have a course in regional- in agriculture and stay and have a career in regional Australia. We have lost generations of young people out of rural and regional Australia, and its time to bring them home. We've had a gutful of losing our best and brightest to capital cities. This is the opportunity to square the ledger. 

And I've said to the RDCs, I expect that they use these eight innovation hubs to be able to continue to attract the best minds, to be able to grow. But then to have the career pathway for our students to get a university course and be the next researcher, the next scientist that shifts the dial for Australian agriculture in regional Australia.

And so this is a big step in making sure that also the world can come and feel and touch what we are doing. This is where the rubber hits the road. But it's also where farmers will be able to understand what it means for them. There's an old bank manager that used to sit around farmer's kitchen table - let me tell you, the old cocky won't spend a dollar unless he knows he's going to make a quid out of it. But he's got to feel and touch it before he's going to take the risk. And that's why we're putting it out there. 

And today, we're also announcing- last night, I should say, another $30 million for digital hubs. Digital ag is here and it's here in a big way. And so through these hubs and these nodes right across Australia- we're going to put an extra three in each one of these nodes and hubs to actually sit and help farmers navigate the new digital world. To make sure they're embracing the technology that will bring that efficiency and productivity that they want. That's the smarts of making sure that the best minds in the world, their toils of their labour are being used for the good of the nation. It's a practical step. 

Also the patent box. I don't know how I make that sexy, I'm sorry.

[Laughter]

But this is about rewarding. This is- it's rewarding those scientific breakthroughs, those patents in crop science, in ag vet, so that the profits aren't taxed at 30 per cent, but at 17 per cent. To give that incentive for those minds to commercialise what they are doing. This is the opportunity to make sure that we don't have the brain drain and we don't have the loss of that money, of these- of what these greatest minds have achieved to some other country. It's an incentive to keep them here. So this is about putting their whole environment. 

And the last piece is obviously around our people. We've got some big challenges and the biggest constraint on agriculture has been labour force. And so, we've already reduced agricultural courses by 59 per cent. In UQ in Gatton that saw over 110 per cent increase in enrolments. In Victoria it was over 59 per cent, and in Tasmania it was just on 50 per cent. Practical jobs that young people can take up and be part of agriculture. 

But I'm also proud of the fact that we now have an agricultural visa. This is something that was an article of faith for me when I became Agriculture Minister in the National Party. Let me tell you that we need this -we need this badly. Because farmers, as I get around this country, are making investment decisions today about whether they'll plant or not. You don't plant unless you can pick it and put it on your plate - because you don't get paid.

So you think fuel is the biggest cost of living issue? Let me tell you, for Australian farmers, if we don't have the labour supply that they need, then you won't be seeing your produce at a reasonable price on the supermarket shelf. And so this is about choice. 

The Pacific scheme has been there and in fact there's been over 50,000 men and women that could have come into this country - farmers have brought them in. But the ag visa goes further than just unskilled labour - it's skilled and semi-skilled. And this will give a pathway to permanent residency. The next generation of migrants to regional rural Australia, what built this country. We want to bring the next generation in. And for them to be part of regional, rural Australia, to be part of agriculture, to grow regional Australia, but to grow agriculture. 

And so this is a unique opportunity to make sure that we provide that that continuity of supply of labour, the biggest structural change in Australian agricultural workforce in our nation's history, and we achieved it. 

And despite those that want to demonise Australian farmers, and demonise and say that they'll be exploited, to generalise in that way is disgraceful. In any cohort, there is always a small section that do the wrong thing. But you should remove them. You shouldn't generalise and demonise an industry. We're Australians. You don't do that to one another.

So what we're saying to Australian agriculture out of this budget today is, we're putting the environment and the infrastructure around you. And that infrastructure is $7 billion plus in dams, $7 billion plus in roads and rail. We're connecting your product to the port and to someone's plate and someone's back. It's the biggest investment in regional rural Australia of any government in our nation's history. No government has been bold enough to actually spend that amount of money on Australian agriculture and the regions. I'm proud to say that Australian agriculture has grown. It's grown because of you. And we hope to grow because of what we're putting around you. Thanks for having me. 

LUCY BARBOUR:    Thank you, David Littleproud. Fantastic speech and great to hear it in a bit more detail all that's been happening - biosecurity, boots on the ground, you're coming for us. 

[Laughter]

Everyone watch your backs. No, but that was a really great speech. Thank you so much. 

And if you don't already know, you will have the opportunity to see Mr. Littleproud in action again on 19 April here at the National Press Club. He will be debating his Labor counterpart, Julie Collins, in a National Rural Press Club event. And of course CropLife is one of our major sponsors, so we're really looking forward to that. 

To close this morning's formalities, I welcome Mr. Gavin Jackson of the CropLife Board of Directors to provide a vote of thanks. And of course, please then feel free to stick around, have a mingle, have a network - it's been a while since everyone's been able to do that in person. Thank you. 

GAVIN JACKSON:    Thanks, Lucy. And CropLife Australia, again, is very pleased to have hosted the Agricultural Industry Federal Budget Breakfast again. And on behalf of the Board of Directors and all our member companies, I'd like to officially thank a few people. 

Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the generous support of the National Press Club as this is the 12th year in a row. And thank you to the NPC CEO, Maurice Reilly, and your team, Maurice. Thank you very much. 

Now, thanks to Lucy Barbour, President of the National Rural Press Club, for her role today, and the continued dedication to bringing important stories of rural, regional and agricultural Australia to the attention of the broader community. 

To all the parliamentary representatives here with us today, I expect none of you have had an early night and we really appreciate your support of the Australian agricultural industry by making this breakfast a really important part of your budget week. It's great that we've got senior representatives of the National, Liberal and Labor parties. They're all here and some of the parliamentary staff is as well.

Now the jam gift you take away with you today is from a small Australian company called Ricardo's. Now Ricardo's had to increase- Ricardo's actually increased its jam production significantly through COVID. They had to change their- what they were doing due to the challenges of COVID, unavailability of labour, and some other operations of their business were threatened. So it's small and local stories like these that show the great qualities of Australian agriculture - determination, ingenuity, commitment and passion, qualities that the whole plant science industry, we really seek to foster and support those. 

These are qualities also shared amongst all parts of agriculture represented here today. So my thanks to you all for your continued commitment to meeting the future challenges of Australian agriculture. 

And finally, I offer a special vote of thanks to the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia. A very inspiring and passionate speech. It's great to see your true passion for the industry. The Honourable David Littleproud, MP. No matter how full his agenda, the Minister has always made this event a priority so he can speak directly to the leaders of Australian agriculture. And in budget week, that's a big ask. So thank you again, Minister. Your commitment is very much appreciated. 

The Minister and indeed all parliamentarians have a busy few months ahead. Elections coming up. I expect we'll be hearing a lot more from you in the coming weeks, particularly around commitments for agriculture. We look forward to this and to participating in discussions as we all work in the interest of a more sustainable, productive and profitable agriculture from which the entire nation will benefit and we heard that from Minister Littleproud as well. 

So again, I ask you- everyone please to show their thanks to the Minister with a round of applause. Thank you very much.