Agriculture, Water and the Environment

The Agriculture, Water and Environment Portfolio (the Portfolio) consists of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department) and 13 Portfolio bodies. The Department supports delivery of the Australian Government’s policy agenda across the important and interrelated areas of agriculture, the environment and heritage, and water resources. These functions are critical to the prosperity and quality of life that Australians currently enjoy, especially in regional areas.

The purpose of the Portfolio is partnering and regulating to enhance Australia’s agriculture, unique environment and heritage, and water resources. The Portfolio has a diverse role as a policy adviser, researcher, program administrator and regulator. Our work contributes to increasing, improving and maintaining market access for our primary producers, encouraging agricultural productivity in our primary industries, and supporting sustainable resource management, our environment and unique heritage.

Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry are multi-billion dollar industries that benefit from our regulation, research, policies and programs to improve their productivity, competitiveness and sustainability. The events of the past year have tested resilience in the regions. The Government has responded with support and new initiatives to drive recovery for communities affected by drought, bushfire and the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are working in partnership with industry to lift the value of Australia’s agricultural production to $100 billion by 2030 by continuing to grow our trade opportunities, improving regulation and regulatory processes, and supporting agricultural science. A priority for the Portfolio is busting congestion in our export systems, improving traceability, reducing the time it takes exporters to get their produce into high-value overseas markets and supporting growth and jobs in export industries.

The Portfolio manages biosecurity risks to the environment and to human, animal and plant health by ensuring the safe movement of people, vessels, aircraft and goods into Australia. Working with states and territories, and industry, we support Australia’s ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from pest and disease incursions.

Our environment also faces a range of threats and challenges from catastrophic events such as the Black Summer bushfires. Effective environmental management, including through our Commonwealth National Parks, Australian Marine Parks and World Heritage Areas, helps to protect the country’s most iconic natural destinations, Indigenous culture, unique ecosystem and biodiversity. Climate science and adaptation will be critical in building the nation’s environmental resilience, with major initiatives to continue to support climate and emergency risk management in all sectors of the Australian economy.

Water is critical to the future of agriculture and the wellbeing of the environment and our communities. We work to improve the health of rivers and freshwater systems, to ensure the sustainable, efficient and productive management and use of water resources. We lead the Australian Government’s contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and support regional economies and the environment through large-scale investment to improve returns to irrigators and the community, while providing water for the environment. The 2020–21 Budget delivers a package of reforms to bring communities back to the centre of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and improve compliance in the Basin.

The Portfolio has a presence across Australia, our external territories and Antarctica, employing a diverse staff of 9,651 under the Public Service Act 1999 as of 30 June 2020. We work across 182 locations; 4,159 staff are employed in Canberra (43%), 1,168 in Sydney and Melbourne, 3,048 in all other capitals and 1,276 in regional areas and overseas.

Several Portfolio bodies employ staff under their own legislation and most have staff in locations outside the capital cities. The Portfolio’s footprint includes offices in locations such as Mildura, Armidale, Orange, Hobart, Townsville, Darwin and Kakadu, ensuring staff are close to the sites, communities and industries that they serve.

New initiatives

Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters

The Australian Government has agreed to a suite of reforms to accelerate trade growth as agriculture recovers from drought, bushfires and COVID-19. These reforms will modernise the existing systems and processes to give Australian agricultural exporters access to world-leading government services. The package, worth $328.4 million over four years from 2020–21, will reform export systems and regulation and contribute to the goal of $100 billion in farmgate production by 2030. The package includes:

  • $222.2 million for Digital Services to Take Farmers to Markets, which will modernise Australia’s agricultural export systems by moving our systems online and providing a single portal for transactions between exporters and Government, streamlining processes for industry.
  • $14.3 million for improving regulation, including the Targeted Interventions for Seafood and Live Animal Exporters measure, which will build an exporters’ capacity to explore market opportunities through the creation of dedicated case managers to assist new and existing exporters to expand their markets.
  • $10.9 million for Building a More Competitive Export Meat Industry to reform the export meat regulatory system by targeting higher-risk export processes and/or exporters and introducing flexible assurance methods aimed at reducing costs.
  • $10 million for Harmonised and Streamlined Plant Export Regulation to simplify processes to support plant product exports, making it easier, cheaper and quicker for plant exporters to get their produce into overseas markets. It will also harmonise regulation for plant industries and streamline plant export audit intervention, making the rules more consistent and easier to navigate.
  • $71.1 million over three years from 2020–21 to make the essential export regulatory services that the Government provides more efficient and sustainable. This initiative will lock in savings of at least $21 million annually for exporters.

The package will generate wider benefits for industry of at least $236 million over the decade. Rural and regional Australia will reap the largest benefits from this Budget measure. Building a stronger agricultural sector benefits all Australians, especially those in rural and regional areas. Australian farms employed 322,000 workers on average in 2018-19, and three in five agricultural jobs are linked to international trade activity. These people, and their communities, will all benefit.

Improved Access to Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals – Extension

The Government is providing an additional $2.1 million in 2020–21 to extend the grants component of the Improved Access to Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals program (the Program) by a further 12 months to June 2021. This brings the Government’s total investment in this program to $16.5 million over seven years from 2014–15.

The Program will continue to provide grants to rural research and development corporations to assist with data generation to support applications to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. Applications can be sought to gain, maintain or broaden access to agricultural and veterinary chemicals for minor uses.

The Program will continue to equip farmers with chemical management tools they would not otherwise be able to access, sustaining our established commodities and enabling the growth of new and emerging high-value industries. These industries will help drive the creation of new markets and ensure that Australia maintains and creates vibrant economies in rural and regional areas.

Evaluation of the existing Program by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has shown an average economic return of $117 per grant dollar expended. This is a return of $17 million per project (over 20 years) and a potential $1.5 billion production value increase per decade from the funded projects.

Improving Access to Medicines (Antimicrobial Resistance)

The Government is progressing the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond. Over two years from 2020-21, the Australian Government is supporting further surveys into antimicrobial resistance in farmed animals and veterinary practices to understand current antimicrobial usage in farmed and companion animals and help identify improvements. These surveys will be carried out in conjunction with the four-year expansion of the Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) surveillance program.

Survey data is critical for assessing the risks and preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobials for treating human and animal infections. This measure will strengthen the Australian Government’s national leadership in responding to antimicrobial resistance, help preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials, and limit the spread of resistant organisms to ensure the safety of all Australians, including regional communities and those employed in the livestock and agriculture sectors.

Streamlining and Modernising Agricultural Levies Legislation

The Australian Government is committing $7.2 million over four years from 2020-21 to modernise the 30-year-old agricultural levies legislative framework into a business-friendly, fit for purpose and easy to use legislative framework that best supports industry investment into key activities including research and development, marketing and biosecurity. This will contribute to improved productivity and competitiveness for the sector, with clear flow-on benefits for regional Australia.

The existing legislation is overly complex, inconsistent, ambiguous and a barrier to industries being able to innovate and adjust levy settings to respond to emerging risks and priorities. The modernised legislation will provide a more agile, transparent and efficient regulatory system with practical benefits for individual farm businesses and close to 8,000 levy collection agents—mostly located in regional Australia—such as stock agents, wholesalers or processors. The legislation will establish clear and consistent terms to help levy payers and collection agents understand what they are required to complete on levy return forms. Farm businesses and levy collection agents will face a reduced risk of, and penalty for, non-compliance through a reduction in the number of levy return forms, forms being integrated online, and a more tiered approach to enforcement.

Centre of Regulator Excellence Pilot Initiative: Training to Professionalise Export Regulators

The Australian Government is providing $6.5 million over three years to improve regulator capability and performance through a trial training program to be developed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Australian Public Service Commission, in conjunction with the new Centre of Regulator Excellence within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. A more capable regulatory workforce will improve trade outcomes for Australian exporters of food and agricultural products by reducing time to market and supporting more consistent and predictable regulatory outcomes, while maintaining standards and further protecting Australia’s reputation as a clean and ethical producer. Three in five agricultural jobs are linked to international trade and the majority of these jobs are in rural and regional Australia. Making it easier to get exports to market will benefit these workers and their communities.

Inquiry into Perishable Agricultural Goods

On 26 August 2020, the Government announced it had commissioned a three-month Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into perishable agricultural goods. The inquiry is taking a broad look at trading practices throughout supply chains, including relationships between farmers, processors and retailers. This covers commodities including meat products (pork, beef, lamb, chicken), fish and shellfish, eggs, dairy products, and horticultural produce not already covered by the Horticulture Code of Conduct. It is considering the extent to which any potential bargaining power imbalances can adversely impact the efficient operation of markets, and the role of market structures and regulations in delivering efficient and equitable outcomes. It is also examining the effectiveness of the Dairy Code and if it should be extended across the entire domestic supply chain to include retailers. The ACCC will report by 30 November 2020.

Supporting regions to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Agriculture and tourism businesses have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to significant disruptions to international travel and supply chains, and commercial relationships with trading partners. The Australian Government has provided relief to these industries through the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, commencing in April 2020. This support has allowed businesses to continue operations without finding the funds necessary to apply for licences and permits or pay other charges while they are re-building in light of the impacts of the pandemic. Within the package, measures include:

  • $10.3 million in 2019–20 for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to waive the final two instalments of levies for Commonwealth-managed fisheries, reducing levies for the 2019–20 financial year by two thirds. This has supported fishers’ cash flow during the outbreak, and helped them remain viable and able to return to full production when the outbreak subsides.
  • $4 million to Seafood Industry Australia to support the survival and recovery of Australia’s seafood sector by delivering a 12-month national awareness campaign planned to commence in November 2020 that encourages Australians to eat more healthy sustainable Australian seafood.
  • $36.3 million to agricultural show societies and $2.7 million to agricultural field days to alleviate cash flow pressures for organisers that cancelled their event in 2020 because of COVID-19.
  • $10 million to support Australian forestry industries in establishing storage facilities for timber and wood products to secure fire-affected resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $20 million to the Reef Builder Costal Communities Recovery Project in 2020-21, which will restore shellfish reefs that support the aquaculture sector.
  • $33.5 million in 2020-21 for sustaining tourism at Australia’s Iconic World and National Heritage sites. This includes improvements to visitor facilities and accommodation, accessibility and signage at sites in all States and the Northern Territory.
  • $11.2 million to waive Commonwealth National Park entry fees to the iconic Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuṯa, and Booderee National Parks for 2020, providing additional incentives for travellers to visit these must-see destinations once travel restrictions are relaxed; and $772,000 to waive or reimburse National Park commercial tour operator and permit fees.

Further to this, the Government provided $15.3 million to support enhanced human health screening measures at airports in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work benefited the agriculture industry by helping to maintain food supply chains and assist agricultural producers to get product to market, and supporting the movement of essential workers and commodities for agriculture.

Maintaining the Timeliness of the Environmental Assessment Process

The Australian Government is investing $36.6 million over two years from 2020-21 to continue its reforms to reduce green tape while maintaining protection of Australia’s invaluable natural capital. This investment will improve the timeliness of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) approvals and clear the backlog of overdue cases under the EPBC Act and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984. The funding includes:

  • $12.4 million over two years from 2020‑21 to maintain the momentum established in ensuring timely environmental assessments and approvals through the 2019‑20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook measure titled Busting Congestion in the Environmental Assessment Process ($25 million over two years from 2019-20).
  • $10.6 million over two years from 2020‑21 to progress negotiations with the states and territories on bilateral agreements for a single-touch approach to approvals, removing duplication by accrediting states to carry out environmental assessment and approvals on the Commonwealth's behalf.
  • $8.8 million over two years from 2020‑21 to expedite the approval of 15 major infrastructure projects that are estimated to contribute more than $72 billion in public and private investment and will support tens of thousands of Australian jobs.
  • $2.2 million over two years from 2020‑21 to reduce the backlog of applications and support the timely administration of new applications under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.
  • $2.5 million in 2020‑21 to support further policy work relating to environmental markets.

Supporting the Great Barrier Reef Tourism Industry

The Australian Government is committing $11.6 million over three years from 2020‑21 to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The initiative will support GBRMPA to continue its world-class management of the Great Barrier Reef (the Reef) whilst supporting local businesses in a region significantly impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Funding includes:

  • $6 million over two years from 2020-21 to further support local tourism operators and encourage tourism to the Reef by extending the temporary waiver of the Environmental Management Charge for visitors and tourists until 30 June 2021.
  • $5.6 million over three years from 2020-21 to improve educational offerings and tourism experiences for visitors to Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville, Queensland, through new and revitalised exhibits that showcase the diversity of marine life within the Reef and the efforts undertaken to ensure its protection for future generations.
  • $3.2 million in 2020-21 from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to fund Great Barrier Reef Marine Park tourism operators to deliver in-water reef site maintenance and monitoring.
  • Another $5 million from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund will support critical capital works and capital projects to refurbish and replace external structures at Reef HQ.

At the July Economic and Fiscal Update 2020, the Australian Government announced additional funding to support the Reef, including:

  • $3.3 million over two years from 2019-20 to provide fee relief to local tourism businesses in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This follows the Australian Government's decision to backdate the Environmental Management Charge waiver to 1 January 2020 and waive permit-related fees for Reef use until 30 June 2021.
  • Another $2 million over two years from 2019-20 for GBRMPA to support the core functions and continued employment of staff at Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville during its temporary closure due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

At the 2019-20 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Australian Government announced additional funding of $26.9 million for critical infrastructure and health and safety upgrades to the National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef in Townsville, providing a refreshed educational resource and tourism site.

Supporting Healthy Oceans

Australia is a world leader in marine protection and our marine industries generate jobs and prosperity, with significant growth potential. The Australian Government is investing $47.4 million over four years from 2020‑21, and $7.8 million per year ongoing from 2024-25, to support the health and management of oceans and territorial waters surrounding the Australian mainland and territories. Funding includes:

  • $28.3 million over four years from 2020‑21, and $7.8 million per year ongoing from 2024-25, to enhance the maintenance of Australia's marine park network, including increased science and monitoring activities, expanded Indigenous engagement in park management and more pro‑active enforcement of compliance with marine park rules.
  • $14.8 million over four years from 2020‑21 to remove ghost nets (lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear) from Australia's northern waters.
  • $4.2 million over four years from 2020‑21 to support Australia's engagement with the International Partnership for Blue Carbon and the Asia‑Pacific Rainforest Partnership.

Bureau of Meteorology – Improved Security and Resilience

The Australian Government will provide $254.6 million over four years from 2020‑21 to ensure the long‑term financial sustainability of the Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau). The funding includes:

  • $225.6 million over three years from 2021‑22, and $143.7 million per year indexed and ongoing from 2024‑25, to maintain a proactive asset maintenance schedule consistent with industry best practice and allow the Bureau to safely respond to multiple concurrent weather emergency events during times of natural disaster.
  • $29 million in 2020‑21 to supplement revenue for the Bureau’s aviation meteorological services program following a downturn in aviation activity due to the COVID‑19 pandemic.
  • Funding to improve the security, resilience and reliability of the Bureau’s Observations Network infrastructure. The financial implications of this element are not for publication due to commercial‑in‑confidence sensitivities.

Recycling Modernisation Fund

The Australian Government has committed $190 million over four years from 2020-21 to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF). The RMF will generate co-contributions from industry and State and Territory governments leading to $600 million of recycling infrastructure investment that will transform Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.

A number of investments under the RMF will be made in regional Australia, where recycling and remanufacturing facilities are often located. Projects under the RMF will be delivered under National Partnership Agreements through State and Territory governments. In some cases, these agreements specifically require states and territories to prioritise investment in regional and remote recycling facilities. In addition, the RMF will also fund a national solution for paper recycling infrastructure, where addressing impacts on regional and rural Australia is a priority.

The RMF will support waste recovery and processing infrastructure to respond to the ban on the export of waste paper, plastic, glass and tyres, agreed by all Australian governments in March 2020. The export ban will mean that Australia must recycle an additional 645,000 tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres onshore by 2024. This measure, combined with the National Waste Policy Action Plan, will create over 10,000 jobs over the next ten years, including in regional Australia, and prevent 10 million tonnes of waste from going to landfill.

National Waste Policy Action Plan

In addition to the RMF, the Australian Government has invested $59.6 million over four years from 2020-21 to implement its commitments under the National Waste Policy Action Plan (the Action Plan), improve national waste data and implement the ban on waste paper, plastics, glass and tyres.

The Action Plan includes seven ambitious targets, underpinned by 80 individual actions, to deliver significant improvements in Australia’s recycling and resource recovery performance, including in regional Australia. It includes a commitment that all communities will have access to waste management and processing. Through the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, all Australian governments will report on opportunities to promote regional collection and recycling of soft plastics through the expansion of the Regional Model for Soft Plastics. They will also work together to develop shared infrastructure and collection processes for packaging waste in remote and regional areas through the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership.

Further, Australian, State and Territory and local governments will explore opportunities to leverage existing regional development programs to support better waste management and resource recovery, as well as increase access to resource recovery and waste management infrastructure for regional, remote and Indigenous communities in every state and territory.

The waste export ban progressively prohibits the export of certain types of waste, meaning that Australia must recycle an additional 645,000 tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres onshore by 2024. The ban will create jobs, including in regional Australia. As waste will need to be processed prior to export, the ban will also encourage the use of recycling and remanufacturing facilities, which are often located in regional Australia.

To implement the ban, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will administer a licensing and declaration scheme to enable the export of waste materials where it can be demonstrated that sufficient processing has occurred prior to export to prevent harm to the environment or human health overseas. Through this funding, the Australian Government will provide temporary implementation funding to defer charging to recover costs associated with administering the scheme until 1 July 2023. This interim funding will provide relief to businesses, including regional businesses, managing the dual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and a new regulatory regime.

Murray-Darling Basin Communities Investment Package

The Australian Government will provide $269.6 million over four years from 2020-21, and $9.8 million per year ongoing from 2024-25, for a package of measures to achieve a sustainable and certain future for the Murray-Darling Basin, its people, industries and environment. The investment package responds to the findings of the Independent assessment of social and economic conditions in the Murray–Darling Basin and the First Review of the Water for the Environment Special Account, and is targeted at bringing Basin communities back to the centre of the Basin Plan.

The package includes funding to invest in community resilience and river health, including:

  • $37.6 million over two years from 2020-21 to extend the Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program to support economic development projects in Basin communities impacted by water recovery under the Basin Plan.
  • $37.6 million over two years from 2020-21 to work with the South Australian Government to deliver projects that will sustain Riverland environments.
  • $24.5 million over two years from 2020-21 to fund community-driven grants for on-ground projects that will improve the health of rivers and wetlands.
  • $4.2 million over two years from 2020-21 to engage Indigenous River Rangers to increase Indigenous people’s access to water for economic and social purposes, and embedding Indigenous participation in delivery of the Basin Plan.

This package also provides funding to build trust, transparency and accountability in the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, including:

  • $38.7 million over four years from 2020-21 (and $9.8 million per year ongoing) for compliance activities, including the establishment of a new statutory authority, the Inspector-General of Water Compliance.
  • $25 million over four years from 2020-21 to improve metering systems in the Murray-Darling Basin, particularly the Northern Basin, through a National Partnership Agreement.
  • $7.5 million over four years from 2020-21 to track and monitor ecological, economic and social outcomes with conditions in the Basin due to water reform.
  • $6 million over four years from 2020-21 to improve and simplify access to water information such as water management, use and trade, and to develop a second-pass business case to modernise and integrate Basin river modelling.

The package also provides funding to improve implementation of the Basin Plan, including:

  • $70.5 million over four years from 2020-21 to work with Basin jurisdictions to accelerate planning and delivery of projects that are at risk of not being completed by 2024, and develop a new National Partnership Agreement with Basin jurisdictions to provide funding for new and ongoing activities required to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
  • $18 million over four years from 2020-21 for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to support the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate

The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme is being extended and a further $50 million of Australian Government funding will be available in 2020-21. The scheme is delivered jointly by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to farmers and improves their drought resilience through the installation of eligible water infrastructure. Since July 2018, a total of 7,659 applications have been approved and over $41 million directly provided to drought-affected farmers. This has flow-on benefits to rural communities through the purchase of local materials and equipment, and the creation of regional jobs.

The additional funding, to be matched by the states and territories, will further expand the scheme, including to meet existing unmet demand of over 2,000 applications valued in excess of $12.5 million. The additional commitment brings the Australian Government’s investment in this initiative to a total of $100 million over four years from 2017-18.

National Bushfire Recovery Fund

The impacts of the 2019‑20 Black Summer bushfires on the Australian environment, agriculture and forestry industries were significant, unprecedented, and disproportionately affected rural and regional Australia. Over 13 million hectares were burnt, with more than 700 species in the path of the fires. The loss of much-loved local bushland has had a devastating impact on regional communities, including from the loss of tourism and recreational opportunities. Indigenous Australians have suffered deeply from the terrible impacts on culturally significant sites and species. More than two million hectares of productive forests in southern and eastern Australia were burnt, placing significant pressure on our people, businesses and communities that depend on those forests. With over 1.4 million hectares of agricultural land in bushfire-affected areas, many of our primary production industries have suffered sustained damage.

The Australian Government is committed to helping regional Australia recover from the Black Summer bushfires, with a range of measures to support the recovery of our wildlife and their habitat, invest in a stronger and more resilient agriculture sector and to support a sustainable forestry industry, including:

  • $53.4 million, available over two years from 2019-20, to assist with the immediate survival and recovery of affected animals and plants.
  • $149.7 million, available over two years from 2020-21, to support the sustained efforts required for the long-term recovery of our native animals and plants, including:
    • strategic on-ground support for the most impacted native species across seven bushfire-affected regions
    • projects to engage local communities in conserving their local environment and driving recovery of plants, animals and other natural assets from the bushfires
    • support for knowledge exchange on Indigenous Australians’ approaches to fire and land management.
  • $141 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 for grants of up to $75,000 to help bushfire-affected primary producers, to deal with their immediate recovery and clean-up needs.
  • $31 million in 2020-21 for grants of up to $120,000 per hectare to bushfire-impacted apple growers to help them re-establish apple orchards.
  • $5 million in 2020-21 for grants of up to $10,000 to wine grape producers who experienced crop loss due to smoke taint from the Black Summer bushfires but are located outside of Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangement Category C declared areas for the 2019-20 bushfires.
  • An additional $15 million over three years from 2019-20 for Rural Financial Counselling Service providers in bushfire-affected regions, enabling up to 60 additional rural financial counsellors and support workers to meet increased demand from bushfire-affected primary producers.
  • $15 million in 2020-21 to support the forestry industries with the increased costs of transporting salvaged burnt logs further distances in the aftermath of the fires.
  • $41 million from 2020-21 to 2022-23 to assist privately owned wood processing facilities to recover and rebuild through innovation and product diversification through the Forestry Recovery Development Fund Program.
  • $10 million in 2020-21 to support the forestry industry in establishing storage facilities for timber and wood products to secure fire-affected resources.

Future Drought Fund

The $5 billion Future Drought Fund (FDF) provides secure, continuous funding for drought resilience initiatives, which will help Australian farms and communities prepare for the impacts of drought. The FDF’s vision is an innovative and profitable farming sector, a sustainable natural environment and adaptable rural, regional and remote communities – all with increased resilience to the impacts of drought and climate change.

On 1 July 2020, the Australian Government announced the nine foundational programs for the FDF, with $89.5 million available in 2020-21. The programs include:

  • $20 million for the Farm Business Resilience Program, to provide farm businesses with training to strengthen their strategic business management skills and develop farm business plans to build risk management capacity and drought resilience.
  • $10 million for the Climate Services for Agriculture Program, to fund the development and delivery of interactive digital ‘climate information services’ for the agriculture sector to help farmers to make real-time decisions.
  • $3 million for the Drought Resilience Self-Assessment Tool, to provide an online self-assessment tool for farmers to self-identify drought risks based on a range of social, economic and environmental indicators, and take action to build the drought resilience of their farm business.
  • $20.3 million for the Drought Resilience Research and Adoption Program, to establish two regionally located Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs, as well as Innovation Grants which will become available to research organisations, private sector, industry, not-for-profit organisations and community groups.
  • $5 million for the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Drought Resilience - Landscapes Program, to fund regional NRM bodies to undertake projects to build drought resilience of natural resources on agricultural landscapes.
  • $10 million from the Natural Resource Management Drought Resilience - Grants program to fund grants available to organisations, farmer groups and individuals to undertake NRM projects to build drought resilience of natural resources at a small scale.
  • $3.8 million for the Networks to Build Drought Resilience Program, to support community-driven projects that enhance drought resilience and strengthen networks, including small-scale infrastructure projects to make community facilities drought resilient.
  • $7.5 million for the Drought Resilience Leaders Program, which will develop leadership capability in communities and include a mentoring component to foster uptake of innovative practices to build drought resilience for farmers and their businesses.
  • $10 million for Regional Drought Resilience Planning, which will provide funding to groups of local councils or equivalent entities to develop Regional Drought Resilience Plans for agriculture and allied industries.

The Australian Government announced additional program funding on 28 August 2020, fully committing the annual $100 million of FDF funding to programs in 2020-21. This expanded the Drought Resilience Research and Adoption Program, to establish a total of eight Adoption and Innovation Hubs across regional Australia for a total of $86 million over four years.

The FDF is a national program, which will benefit rural, regional and remote communities across Australia. The nine programs will build the self-reliance, productivity and performance of farm businesses and strengthen the viability and wellbeing of rural and regional communities.

Financial Counselling to Support Small Regional Businesses

The Drought Communities Small Business Support Program (DCSBSP) expanded in July 2020, with the Australian Government providing funding of to $12.8 million over two years from 2019-20. The DCSBSP provides free financial counselling, support and professional services funding to small regional businesses affected by drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and/or the 2019-20 bushfires. This support helps rural and regional businesses remain resilient while facing a downturn and maintain the capacity to rebound when normal trading conditions resume. The DCSBSP is being delivered nationally across regional Australia by the 12 existing Rural Financial Counselling Service providers and aims to support eligible small regional businesses to improve their financial capability. The DCSBSP ends on 30 June 2021.

Regional Investment Corporation

The Australian Government provided an additional $2 billion in loan funding to the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) in July 2020 for the 2020-21 financial year. This funding doubles the farm and small business loan funds to a total of $4 billion, in response to unprecedented demand for farm and small business drought concessional loans.

In response to ongoing severe drought conditions in many parts of the country, the Government introduced the two-year interest free terms from 1 January 2020 for Drought Loans. The two-year interest free terms ceased on 30 September 2020. These concessional loans are a practical support mechanism for farmers and small businesses facing hardship due to the drought.

The Australian Government launched AgBiz Loans available to eligible small businesses that directly provide primary production-related goods and services to farm businesses in drought on 20 January 2020.

The terms of the concessional loans offered by the RIC enable rural businesses to save thousands of dollars a year on interest bills.

In order to process these critical loans the Government has provided the RIC with a further $50 million in operational funding to deliver the additional loans and process the applications already on hand.

The AgriStarter Loan for the next generation of Australian farmers will open for applications from 1 January 2021, with an additional $75 million allocated for loan applications this financial year.

National Waste Policy Action Plan

The Australian Government has invested over $30 million for three years from 2020-21 to deliver its commitments through the National Waste Policy Action Plan (the Action Plan). Implementing the Action Plan will support national recycled packaging targets, address impediments to a circular economy in Australia and phase out problematic waste materials with a focus on single-use plastics.

The Action Plan supports communities, particularly in regional and remote Australia, to access waste management and processing. For example, in partnership with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, all Australian governments will report on opportunities to promote regional collection and recycling of soft plastics through the expansion of the Regional Model for Soft Plastics. They will also work together to develop shared infrastructure and collection processes for packaging waste in remote and regional areas through the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership.

Further, Australian, State and Territory and local governments will explore opportunities to leverage existing regional development programs to support better waste management and resource recovery, as well as increase access to resource recovery and waste management infrastructure for regional, remote and Indigenous communities in every state and territory.

Investing in our Commonwealth National Parks

In July 2020, the Australian Government announced the largest ever single investment in Australia’s Commonwealth National Parks, injecting $233.4 million over three years from 2020–21 into critical tourism infrastructure. This will generate over a thousand jobs in parks and the surrounding regions over three years. The investment will create new and improved tourism offerings and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians to build on their vision for supporting tourism on their land.

 The Commonwealth National Parks investment includes:

  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park: Major upgrades to the cultural centre, renewal of walking tracks (including the Uluru Base Walk) and viewing platforms, upgrades to shelters and water stations at visitor sites, as well as $51 million in infrastructure upgrades for the Muṯitjulu community.
  • Kakadu National Park: Upgrades to campgrounds including improved fresh water storage, improvements to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, road repairs, improved staff housing, workshop and utility buildings, improved fuel storage and supply facilities.
  • Booderee National Park: A new visitor centre to welcome visitors and showcase Indigenous Australians’ culture, upgrades to campground amenities, roads and car parks, the Murrays Beach Boardwalk and Boat Ramp, walking tracks and viewing platforms.
  • Christmas Island National Park: New viewing platform at the Margaret Knoll Lookout, a popular birdwatching destination that overlooks the Indian Ocean.

Renewed infrastructure and tourist facilities will also help the tourism sector rebound once travel restrictions are lifted. This capital works program supports the ongoing commitment to promoting tourism through improved visitor experiences, resulting in increased visitor numbers and park revenue.

Capacity Building for Fisheries Representatives

The Capacity Building for Fisheries Representatives measure delivers on the Australian Government’s election commitment of $400,000 over four years from 2019–20 to deliver capacity-building tools to ensure relevant fishing sectors are included in decision-making and to maximise their contribution. Delivered through an experienced fisheries consultant, the measure started in early 2020. Participants will gain a well-developed understanding of the regulatory, scientific and economic drivers of fisheries management, which builds on the work of the National Fishing Advisory Council and Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Recreational Fishing and Camping Facilities Grant Program

The Australian Government has committed $20 million to the Recreational Fishing and Camping Facilities Grant Program, delivering the Australian Government’s election commitment to provide increased and improved opportunities for locals and visitors to regional areas to go fishing. The program will be delivered through partnership agreements with states, under which local councils can apply to improve, maintain or build new boating, marine rescue, fishing and camping facilities (such as boat ramps).

Fishing Habitat Restoration

The Australian Government has committed $8 million over four years from 2019-20 for fisheries habitat restoration, working with fishing clubs to restore marine and estuarine habitats. The Department is considering applications for projects received from Regional Land Partnership service providers, in consultation with recreational fishing groups, from across regional Australia. Projects are expected to commence in 2020.

National Horticultural Netting Program Trial

The Australian Government announced the $25.9 million National Horticulture Netting Program Trial in the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The Trial provides grants of up to $300,000 to eligible horticultural growers for the purchase and installation of protective netting over their crops. The use of protective netting has been shown to improve the quality and quantity of produce otherwise subject to adverse weather and animal predation, and to reduce water usage.

Grants are currently available in South Australia, and the Department is in discussion with states and territories to expand the program.

Starting Farm Co-operatives

In 2018-19, there were over 2,000 co-operative and mutual enterprises in Australia, many of them regionally based. Co-operatives and other collaborative business arrangements have potential to hand more control back to farmers while reducing costs and improving production efficiencies.

Under the Starting Farm Co-operatives election commitment, the Australian Government is providing $3 million over two years from 2019-20 to help primary producers learn more about co-operative approaches and their benefits. The measures include provision of an information hotline, workshops, educational material and financial assistance to cover fees for training courses relevant to establishing co-operative business models. The initiative builds on the Government’s $15.2 million Farming Together Pilot Program and supports the goal of growing a $100 billion agricultural sector by 2030.

The measures are being delivered by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals and Southern Cross University.

Educating Kids about Agriculture

Australian agriculture makes a valuable contribution to regional communities and to the nation as a whole. Through the Educating Kids about Agriculture election commitment, the Australian Government is providing $10 million over three years from 2019-20 to support two new programs to bring kids and farms together:

  • Up to $5 million will fund primary and secondary school students to visit farms and primary production worksites to learn about agriculture through the Educating Kids about agriculture: Kids to Farms grant program, delivered by state farming bodies (also known as state farming organisations).
  • Up to $5 million will establish and test a practical, integrated farming platform or ‘mini farm’ in urban schools through the Educating Kids about Agriculture: Farms to Kids program, delivered by iFarm Australia Pty Ltd.

These programs will provide opportunities for young Australians to engage with the agricultural sector to increase their understanding of where and how their food and fibre is produced, encouraging more young Australians to study agriculture.

Further Support for the Australian Dairy Industry

In 2018-19, the dairy industry’s farm-gate production was valued at $4.4 billion, with over 46,200 people directly employed on dairy farms or by dairy companies in Australia. The sector is a key employer and contributor to regional Australian economies and towns.

The mandatory Dairy Industry Code (the Code) came into effect on 1 January 2020 following over 12 months of extensive engagement and consultation with Australian dairy farmers, processors, industry bodies and government agencies. The Code was a key recommendation from the 2018 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into the dairy industry. The ACCC is responsible for regulating the Code, including by checking farmers' and processors' compliance with the code and taking enforcement action where appropriate.

The Code provides a fairer process for negotiating contractual arrangements between dairy farmers and dairy processor and sets out the key rights and obligations of each party. These requirements have improved transparency and certainty within the industry. Since the Code's implementation, processors for the first time have publicly released their standard forms of agreement, including the minimum prices they are offering farmers for milk. This requirement increases visibility of prices to farmers and competition amongst processors, ultimately leading to better options for farmers.

Through the Further Support of the Australian Dairy Industry election commitment, the Australian Government is providing $950,000 over three years from 2019-20 for measures to increase the sustainability of dairy farmers, and provide them with greater transparency and more say over how they sell their milk.

The measures includes: investigating and supporting new marketing and trading options; real-time, secure and transparent payments to farmers to assist with cash flow and business planning; the development of business calculators to allow farmers to capture their production costs and compare them against different processors’ payment structures; and an industry-agreed template for a short-form milk agreement that incorporates the requirements of the Mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct.

The measures are being delivered through Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia.

Farm Safety Education Fund

The Australian Government committed to $3.5 million over four year years at the 2019 election to improve farm safety outcomes. The National Farm Safety Education Fund will deliver on this commitment to increase awareness of farm safety and education to help prevent farm accidents.

With one in five workplace fatalities occurring on farms, improving farm safety awareness and education will benefit Australia’s farmers, farm workers, their families and the regional communities they support.

Funding of $1.9 million has been provided to Farmsafe Australia to undertake a range of activities that will deliver on the Government’s commitment to safer farms and reduced on-farm injuries and fatalities. A core component of this grant is consultation with farmers and industry groups to develop a Farm Safety Education Fund Strategy. The strategy will guide Australian Government investment for the remaining $1.6 million under the election commitment to support improved farm safety outcomes.

Farmsafe will also update and modernise resources to support worker induction on farms, and educate young Australians in about hazards on farms such as quad bikes, farm machinery and dams.

Promoting the Importance of Bees to Agriculture

The Australian Government committed $1.5 million over two years at the 2019 election to deliver the Promoting the Importance of Bees to Agriculture initiative. The initiative, delivered by AgriFutures Australia, will promote the role of bees and their impact on the entire food chain, to help protect bees and to reduce their decline.

This initiative includes support for the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council and state associations to develop resources and build engagement capacity to raise awareness of honeybees among professional and recreational beekeepers and the public, as well as development of a virtual resource library for beekeepers and support for research.

The honeybee industry, particularly through pollination services, is an important contributor to regional communities, supporting regional employment and economies as well as national food security.

South Australian Dog Fence

At the 2019 election, the Australian Government committed to assist the South Australian Government upgrade 1,600 kilometres of its ageing dog fence, adding to the $1 million already committed from the Established Pest Animal and Weed Management Pipeline program. The total $10 million in Australian Government funding is being matched by the South Australian Government, with an additional $5 million from industry ($25 million in total). The Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia is leading this substantial rebuild of the 2,400 kilometre fence, which protects South Australia’s $4.3 billion livestock industry from dogs and dingoes.

Communities Combating Pests and Weed Impacts during Drought Program

At the 2019 election the Government committed to help producers and graziers manage established pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas. Funding of $10 million over 2019-20 and 2020-21 has been allocated from Round 2 of the program to 23 projects across 33 local government areas, following a competitive grant round that closed in February 2020.

The program intends to reduce the detrimental economic, social and environmental effects associated with pest animals and weeds during droughts, increase innovative natural resource management and simulate local economies.

African Swine Fever Response Package

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal disease that affects pigs and is spreading rapidly though Asia. ASF would cause significant damage to Australia’s $5.2 billion pork industry and the communities it employs. The Australian Government has provided $66.6 million over two years from 2019-20 to heighten screening for illegally imported pig products through additional staff and screening technology, support for industry and government preparedness activities and increased collaboration on global efforts to stop the spread of ASF.

Farm Household Allowance

The Australian Government has been investing more than $2 million each week over the last 12 months into rural communities though the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). Since the 2019-20 Budget, the Government has made significant changes to FHA, including expanding and simplifying eligibility arrangements, providing a single rate of payment, and strengthening the case management approach to support farmers in hardship. Between 1 July 2019 and 30 September 2020, recipients who ended their first four years of payment received a lump sum equivalent to six months’ FHA. Additional income support has also been made available to FHA recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic: the first $750 Economic Stimulus payment; the $550 Supplement (which decreased to $250 from the end of September 2020); and FHA recipients who are working for other people (in addition to running their farm) may also qualify for the JobKeeper payment.

The Government also committed to permanently increase the FHA asset threshold to $5 million at the 2019 federal election. This change was delivered at the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The FHA relief payment was also extended to farmers and their partners coming off their fourth year of the FHA prior to 1 October 2020.

New Deregulation Agenda

In the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Australian Government announced several measures to make it easier for food exporters to reach new markets and to streamline environmental assessments, including:

  • A new trade information service for exporters, led by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, with funding of $21.4 million over three years from 2019-20.
  • Reducing regulatory burden and streamlining audit arrangements in the dairy sector with funding of $14.8 million over six years from 2019-20.
  • Export certification modernisation and digitisation with funding of $29.2 million over four years from 2019-20.
  • Environment approvals digital transformation with funding of $26.8 million over three years from 2019-20.

These measures focus on improvement to the Department’s systems to enhance the service it provides to stakeholders.

Disaster Preparedness

The Bureau of Meteorology received $3 million in 2019-20 to deliver a quality control service for third-party weather observations data, designed to support development of a parametric insurance market. This will benefit farmers by reducing the financial volatility caused by weather and water variability.

Climate science and adaptation will be critical in building the nation’s environmental resilience, with major initiatives for the Bureau of Meteorology in the 2020-21 Budget continuing to invest in platforms that will enable the Bureau to support and improve resilience in service of all sectors of the Australian economy.

Strengthening the Australian Antarctic Program

Australian Government funding for Antarctic science and environmental management continues to boost the Tasmanian economy, as our operational work out of Hobart contributes to employment and local investment.

In December 2019, the Australian Government announced $65.7 million over three years from 2019-20 for the Australian Antarctic Program, including $58.8 million for expediting a detailed planning phase to construct a paved runway near Davis Research Station. The runway will support our scientific capabilities in Antarctica and enable international collaboration with other Antarctic nations. The Government also provided $6.9 million at the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2019-20 to support the retrieval of a million-year ice core by ensuring the capacity to extensively traverse the Australian Antarctic Territory, reaching remote locations in the harshest of polar conditions.

The funding ensures critical functions that support Australia’s presence and scientific research activities in Antarctica are maintained, and Australia retains its influence in the Antarctic region. The Antarctic sector largely centres on the activities of the Australian Antarctic Division and represents significant elements of Tasmania’s knowledge-based economy, including through employing and retaining staff in highly skilled jobs in scientific and research fields in Hobart, and local specialised service industries.