Originally published in The Ararat Advocate, 03 February 2023

Through the resilience of regional communities and a proactive and collaborative approach from the Albanese Labor Government, regional Australia has overcome many challenges in 2022 and set itself up for success in 2023.

Throughout the federal election campaign and in the period immediately after Labor formed government, the foot-and-mouth disease posed a significant threat to the Australian agriculture industry and consequently the Australian economy. Estimates suggested an outbreak in Australia would cost $80 billion.

Through the strongest biosecurity response in our country’s history and the vigilance of regional communities at the farm gate, we prevented foot-and-mouth disease from entering Australia.

Of course, this was not the only challenge confronted by regional Australia in 2022. Floods swept through five states, waterlogging crops and devastating farmers.

Despite the floods, data from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences released in December last year shows that agriculture is growing. Agricultural production is forecast to be $85 billion in 2022-23, almost the same record level that was set the previous year.

The success of our agriculture sector despite significant challenges is part of Australia’s broader economic story. On 30 January our AAA credit rating was confirmed by Standard and Poor’s, reflecting faith in the underlying health of the Australian economy and responsible management of our country’s budget in the face of severe global pressures.

By strengthening our fiscal position, the Albanese Labor Government can make important investments in our regions.

The Government is deploying our resources strategically to build capacity in our communities so we can withstand shocks like floods, droughts and pandemics. We cannot just react to crises as they unfold, because there may be another one right around the corner.

An example of this approach is the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt opening a new $40 million grants program to support drought resilience research. The program aims to fill gaps in research and scientific data relating to farming practices that may prove effective in building drought resilience.

On a different policy front, the Albanese Labor Government has opened applications for grants to assist the agriculture sector in demonstrating its sustainability credentials. This is becoming more important in key export markets, but there are currently gaps in our data and frameworks. These grants will help the sector address these issues.

I look forward to working with rural and regional Australians and my parliamentary colleagues to advocate for forward-thinking policies throughout 2023.