Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Agriculture, Water and the Environment: Supporting Regional Recovery and Growth

The Agriculture, Water and Environment Portfolio supports the Australian Government to enhance the important and interconnected areas of agriculture, water resources, heritage and the environment. This work is critical to the prosperity and quality of life of Australians in regional areas. The Portfolio has a diverse role as a policy advisor, researcher, program administrator and regulator, delivering outcomes for rural and regional communities across Australia.

The Portfolio works with partners across government, non-government, industry sectors and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to deliver the Government’s priorities to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and care for our country. This is achieved by improving and maintaining market access for primary producers, encouraging agricultural productivity in Australia’s primary industries, supporting sustainable resource management, and conserving and maintaining Australia’s environment and unique heritage.

Drought, bushfire and flooding events have tested resilience across regional Australia, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have profound effects on regional communities, in particular those that rely heavily on international tourism and trade. In 2021-22, the Portfolio will continue to deliver practical, on-ground actions across the country to drive recovery and support communities affected by these events.

The farming, forestry and fisheries sectors are important sources of economic growth and employment in regional Australia. The Government is setting the foundations for the agriculture industry to reach its goal of $100 billion in production by 2030, and continue to recover from drought, bushfires and the impact of COVID-19. Significant initiatives to tackle emerging trade challenges, protect the country from pests and diseases, support industry resilience, promote innovation and encourage better land management and protect on-farm biodiversity are all important parts of this strategy for growth and are funded in this Budget.

The Portfolio negotiates and maintains trade and access to overseas markets for agricultural, forestry and fishery products. With almost fifty per cent of employment in the agriculture sector derived from commodities destined for export, this work to improve export opportunities is key to growth in the regions. 

The Government is investing in efficient systems to manage changing biosecurity risks at Australia’s borders, and to continue to deliver biosecurity services that support the safe movement of goods and people. The Portfolio manages the risk of the introduction and spread of pests, weeds and diseases into Australia, and works with State and Territory governments, industry and other stakeholders to drive Australia’s ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from pest and disease incursions. This biosecurity system protects Australia’s landscapes, including native flora and fauna, agricultural production and exports, lifestyle value and tourism, with much of this value concentrated in regional areas.

The Government is committed to enhancing stewardship of our landscapes through partnering with our diverse range of land managers. Rewarding farmers for caring for their land will protect and improve future production, while growing resilience and delivering a diversified, drought-proof income stream. Through coordinated action for better soil health, the Portfolio is supporting growth in agricultural production while making the land more drought-resilient.

Through its commitment to global leadership in ocean and waste management and marine protection, the Government is making important investments to stimulate economic growth in the emerging blue economy, create jobs in marine conservation and management, improve environmental outcomes for key marine species and sites, and engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Sea Country management. These investments will create direct employment in regions and communities, and economic growth in fisheries, tourism, and research.

Weather and climate forecasting and disaster preparedness are integral to the Portfolio’s responsibilities. Climate change and its many consequences, including restriction of agricultural growing seasons, threats to heritage values, increased bushfire risk, and changes to species distribution, continue to put pressure on all aspects of the Australian environment. Weather and climate science will be critical in responding and adapting to threats and 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. This includes establishing the Australian Climate Service, which will transform the Australian Government’s capacity to anticipate and prepare for crisis events, and inform risk reduction and resilience efforts. The Portfolio supports the delivery of the Government’s climate adaptation and resilience measures, which are helping Australian businesses, communities and governments anticipate and manage climate risk.

Actions to drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling industry continue in 2021–22 under the National Waste Policy Action Plan. The Portfolio is partnering with industry on activities to increase recycling rates, tackle food and organic waste and support better waste management in sectors such as manufacturing. Taking responsibility for our waste and incentivising recycling will create jobs, including in regional Australia, and will improve access to resource recovery and waste management infrastructure across the country.

Water is critical to the future of agriculture and the wellbeing of the environment and Australian communities. The Portfolio supports the sustainable management and productive use of Australia’s water resources, and works to improve the health of rivers and freshwater systems. The Portfolio provides national leadership and works with relevant state governments to implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and account for and manage water resources in the national interest, including for the benefit of regional industries and communities. It also provides water for the environment, improving the health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

As at 31 December 2020, the Agriculture, Water and the Environment Portfolio employed 9,608 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 5,314 staff (55 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 3,058 staff (32 per cent) in other capital cities and 1,236 staff (13 per cent) in regional areas.

The Portfolio comprises the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and 13 Portfolio bodies. The Portfolio has a regional footprint across Australia, its external territories and Antarctica. Employees span 182 locations (131 regional and remote locations and 51 major cities) and work in a diverse range of settings, including national parks, Antarctica, shipping ports and airports, mail centres, quarantine facilities, laboratories, abattoirs and offices in remote and regional centres, rural communities and cities. Staff are based in locations such as Mildura, Armidale, Orange, Hobart, Yeppoon, Murray Bridge, Townsville, Darwin, Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Booderee and Norfolk, Christmas and Thursday Islands, ensuring staff are close to the sites, communities and industries that they serve. Several Portfolio bodies employ staff under their own legislation and most have staff in locations outside the capital cities.

New initiatives

Supporting Trade – Australian global leadership to grow agriculture exports

The Government is investing $15 million over four years from 2021-22 to enhance representation and promotion of Australia’s interests in international fora and standard-setting bodies that underpin Australia’s agriculture trade. A new international agriculture envoy will be appointed, dedicated to protecting and promoting Australia’s international agriculture interests.

Supporting Trade – extending the Improved Access to Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals program

The Government is investing $9 million over four years to boost farm productivity and resilience through safe and sustainable pest and disease management. The Improved Access to Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals program will ensure continued support for farmers’ access to safe and effective agricultural and veterinary chemicals. These pest and disease management tools are essential to boost farm productivity, strengthen resistance management strategies, manage potential biosecurity incursions, maintain trading competitiveness and achieve the target of $100 billion in value for Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry by 2030.

This initiative supports Research and Development Corporations in generating data required to submit applications to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

By equipping Australian farmers with chemical management tools they would not otherwise be able to access, the program  will support agricultural industries (especially those producing new and emerging commodities) in taking advantage of evolving markets and environmental conditions. If properly resourced, these industries will drive the creation of new markets and ensure that Australia maintains and creates vibrant economies in rural and regional Australia, supporting job growth.

Biosecurity – managing the risk posed by hitchhiker pests arriving in imported cargo

The Australian Government is investing $96.9 million over four years from 2021-22 to strengthen and boost offshore and border biosecurity arrangements to protect Australia from the devastating agricultural and environmental pests that can hitchhike on or in goods and containers destined for Australian shores.

This measure will enable a more systematised approach to managing ‘hitchhiker’ pests before they reach Australia’s borders, including by expanding the offshore treatment provider program, quality systems and supply chain assurance schemes, and improving pest identification to ensure effective application of offshore treatments. Improved acquisition and greater use of data and new technologies will support more accurate and rapid targeting of problem containers. This investment will also support the development of more sophisticated modelling to prioritise intervention efforts and a partnership approach with like-minded countries to monitor global hitchhiker movements and improve shipping container hygiene.

At the border, targeted inspections and surveillance will increase, without undue delay, to intercept high-risk goods and containers. Implementation of innovative detection technologies, such as eDNA, will support rapid and accurate detection of the presence of pests. This measure will also support:

  • Expanding industry arrangements, supported by assurance mechanisms, to manage lower-risk goods and containers, and expanding and improving existing arrangements to reduce interventions for highly compliant import pathways and animal and plant commodities.
  • Enhancing data capture for pests, diseases and containers to accurately target imports posing hitchhiker risks, and enhancing data analytics to identify pests, including for new data types such as images and genomic sequencing.
  • Engagement with logistics companies, wholesalers and retailers to develop stronger container tracing protocols for use in the event of hitchhiker incidents. 

By strengthening biosecurity and supporting better-targeted interventions, this investment will reduce the threat of pests entering Australia, avoiding the very significant costs to Australian agricultural producers of pest incursions, maintaining market access, and ensuring faster clearance of consignments on arrival for compliant importers.

Biosecurity – trialling pre-border screening technology on travellers and air cargo

This initiative provides $19.5 million over two years from 2021-22 to support ground breaking trials in the use of remote approaches across traveller, mail and air cargo pathways to screen for biosecurity risks before they reach Australian shores and to continue existing work on auto-detection algorithms for biosecurity risk material.

This builds on the Government’s earlier investment in screening technology at the border for people and goods, with the successful development and deployment of a world first auto detection algorithm using the 3D Real Time Tomography (RTT) X-ray to detect fruit, meat and seafood.

The RTT X ray technology has proven three times more effective in identifying biosecurity risk than the current 2D X-ray. This initiative will support critical next steps towards keeping biosecurity risk offshore, while enabling the more efficient flow of people and goods across the border.

Keeping risks offshore and managing them effectively if they present at Australia’s borders is vital to protecting Australian agriculture, the natural environment, regional economies, social amenity and human health. It is a key enabler of both domestic agricultural productivity and export market access and growth.

Biosecurity – modern technologies and diagnostic tools to improve the speed and accuracy of pest and disease identification at the border

The Government is investing $25.5 million over four years from 2021-22 to expand diagnostic capabilities and invest in additional technologies to facilitate the streamlined movement of plant and animal-based goods across the border while managing biosecurity risks. This will benefit Australia’s agriculture producers, particularly in the horticulture sector. Funded measures focus on improving the speed and accuracy with which pests and diseases can be identified, and include:

  • Additional technical experts providing specialist skills across eight government laboratories.
  • Procurement of contemporary diagnostic tools and equipment such as field kits to improve the speed and accuracy of pest and disease identification.
  • Greater investment in research to trial new ways of identifying pests and diseases and ensure methods are effective at confirming risks.
  • Enhanced assurance and verification of Australia’s diagnostics processes to give confidence in regulatory decision making.

Biosecurity – better understanding how pests and diseases could enter Australia

Globally, the spread of devastating pests and diseases is accelerating, with increased movements of people and products around the world, supply chain complexity, climate and land use changes. The Government is providing $34.6 million over four years from 2021-22 to address these compounding threats. Funded measures focus on:

  • Increasing collaboration with State and Territory governments, regional neighbours, private veterinarians, industry representative bodies and producers, to build and bolster strategic partnerships to tackle these threats.
  • Enhancing the data-driven and qualitative intelligence essential for managing Australia’s biosecurity and animal health status.
  • Harnessing scientific expertise in the university and research sector.
  • Strengthening surveillance and detection outcomes in the marine environment such as remotely operated vehicles and automated image analysis to help address the biosecurity risks posed by vessels, including biofouling.
  • Targeted capacity building with Pacific Island near neighbours to improve prevention, preparedness, recovery and resilience against animal disease events.
  • Development of an integrated animal and plant disease entomology research program.

Biosecurity – supporting Australia’s preparedness, response and recovery capability

The Government is providing $67.4 million over four years from 2021-22, and $13.1 million ongoing, to build, enhance and test Australia’s biosecurity preparedness, response and recovery capability. This includes:

  • Exercising Australia’s national biosecurity emergency preparedness, response and recovery system to stress-test readiness to deal with a significant national pest or disease incursion.
  • Funding for a biosecurity incident management system to support emergency response activities and systems management capacity.
  • Further development of a national pest and disease surveillance information system with states and territories.
  • Additional contingency funding to support national responses to plant, animal and environmental pest and disease incursions under the biosecurity emergency response deeds with State and Territory governments and industry.
  • A feasibility study on a national system for preserving valuable livestock genetics, and contributing to the ongoing maintenance of the Australian foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank.

Biosecurity – increasing community and business awareness

To help all Australians to understand the importance of biosecurity, the Government is investing $3.9 million over four years from 2021-22 in awareness and engagement activities.

A communication and education strategy, commencing in July 2021, will enable participation and engagement with the community and industry, including travellers, online shoppers and those along the import supply chain. Activities under the strategy include:

  • Building the Biosecurity Australia brand in collaboration with key stakeholders.
  • Biosecurity education programs for schools and community groups.
  • Targeted campaigns for biosecurity threats of national significance to raise awareness for specific risks and consequences.

Biosecurity – upgrading the Maritime Arrivals and Reporting System

The Government is investing $28.7 million over four years from 2021-22 to improve Australia’s ability to manage biosecurity risk posed by vessels, aircraft and non-commercial vessels arriving in Australia. This measure will expand and update the existing Maritime Arrivals Reporting System to capture all international air and sea vessel arrivals, creating a nationally consistent data repository for all conveyances.

It will also streamline biosecurity reporting arrangements for commercial airlines and non-commercial vessel operators, improve compatibility and interoperability with other biosecurity risk information systems used by external border agencies and industry, and enhance the system’s ability to collect data, thereby enabling better targeting of biosecurity inspection activities, compliance and enforcement action.

Biosecurity – delivering digital capability for screening of incoming international mail

The Government is providing $31.2 million over four years from 2021-22 and $1.5 million ongoing to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of biosecurity interventions in the international mail pathway.

International mail is a key pathway for biosecurity risk material, such as African swine fever and seeds, so appropriate interventions are an important component of an efficient, effective and resilient biosecurity system.

System investments will provide for automated workflow with integrated risk assessment allowing effective targeting of high biosecurity risk. Coupled with investment of additional 3D X-rays for this pathway, which have proven to be three times more effective in detecting risk material than current X-ray capability, this will increase resource use efficiency while reducing delivery times of international mail.

Biosecurity – continued protection from the risk posed by African swine fever

The Government will invest $58.6 million over four years from 2021-22, and $13.6 million ongoing for delivering continued capability to detect and manage the continuing and evolving threat of African swine fever (ASF) and other key biosecurity threats. This builds on Government efforts through the previous ASF response package to keep ASF out of Australia, through investing in detection technologies and frontline resources.

This measure will continue support for detector dogs, 3D X-ray, and digital capability, as well as frontline biosecurity officers and targeted compliance operations. It will also enable ongoing with industry and producers to undertake preparedness activities for a potential outbreak of emerging biosecurity threats, as was done in relation to ASF, and enhance capacity building and containment support for near neighbouring countries to manage and prevent incursions of priority exotic animal diseases.

Biosecurity – reduction and prevention activities to reduce the economic and environmental burden of established feral animals, pests and weeds

The Government is providing $29.1 million over four years to continue efforts to deliver better solutions to combat established pest animals and weeds posing a significant threat to Australian primary production, the environment and Australia’s biodiversity. This investment recognises the impact of bushfires, flood and drought on their control and prevalence. From 2021-22 this investment will:

  • Deliver on-ground support for land managers, including through indigenous ranger and national resource management groups.
  • Fund research, development and extension grants for next generation control projects identified through the recent, oversubscribed Advancing Pest Animal and Weed Control Solutions Competitive Grant Round.
  • Drive national coordination outcomes for critical focus areas.
  • Continue to build greater understanding of the costs and distribution of these pests and weeds.

There will be a strong focus on securing co-investment outcomes with key stakeholders, providing both immediate and longer-term solutions for land managers.

Innovation – an initial investment into Australia’s agricultural innovation through the National Innovation Agenda

The Government is committing $4.2 million over four years from 2021-22 to strengthen leadership across Australia’s agricultural innovation system by establishing a National Innovation Policy Statement with new mission-oriented Innovation Priorities that support exports, climate resilience, biosecurity and digital agriculture.

This initiative delivers on the Government’s commitment to release the Policy Statement by mid-2021 as a key element of the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda. The initiative will provide $1.5 million to Agricultural Innovation Australia to develop investment strategies that will support delivery of the Innovation Priorities. This initial investments will focus the agricultural innovation system to on drive collective action to help farmers, and the broader agriculture sector, to innovate, improve their productivity, address shared national challenges and take advantage of strategic opportunities.

Soil and Stewardship – Soils Package

The Australian Government is investing $196.9 million over four years from 2021-22 to implement the National Soil Strategy and associated Action Plan. The proposal meets the Prime Minister’s commitment to announce the National Soil Strategy and associated measures as part of the Budget.

The proposal includes:

  • A 20 year strategy to work with states, territories, industry and other stakeholders to improve soil health.
  • A two year Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program to better understand Australia’s soil health and assess the impact of land management practices on soil condition. This element of the proposal will include rebates to land managers to encourage more comprehensive soil testing, a program to purchase existing privately held soil data, and the re-redevelopment of a publicly available soil information system that will provide the data to help underpin the development of environmental markets that could allow farmers and other land managers to be rewarded for their soil stewardship activities.
  • An accreditation program to provide further education and training for agronomists, extension officers and other trusted advisors to enhance soil science expertise and their ability to provide practical advice to farmers.
  • Soil Science Challenge grants to help address key soil research gaps.
  • A fund to fix gaps in Australia’s organic waste recycling capacity to divert organic waste from landfill to productive use on agricultural soils.

A further $18 million of existing funding from the National Landcare Smart Farms Small Grants program will be repurposed for soil extension activities to support the on-ground implementation of the Pilot Soil Monitoring and Incentives Program.

Soil and Stewardship – Delivering the Agricultural Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot 

The Government’s Agriculture Stewardship Package will receive an additional $32.1 million over four years from 2021-22 (and $55.36 million over 10 years) to improve on-farm biodiversity and develop a mechanism to reward farmers for biodiversity outcomes.

Additional investment will strengthen the Package by:

  • Trialling on-ground the Enhancing Remnant Vegetation (ERV) Pilot developed by the Australian National University (ANU) under the initial package. The ERV Pilot aims to ensure improved existing native vegetation on-farm. Farmers with target vegetation could apply to receive a price offer to undertake long-term protection and management actions.
  • Developing a biodiversity trading platform to link buyers and sellers of biodiversity services and kick-start private sector biodiversity markets. This will help drive uptake in this emerging environmental market. 
  • Full implementation of the Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme developed by the ANU under the initial package. The scheme would help deliver a premium price and help Australia keep up with growing market demand for improved environmental credentials.

The additional investment will provide farmers with an alternative source of income separate from traditional farm revenue streams. 

Improving employment opportunities – Attracting Australian workers to modern agriculture

This initiative will provide $25.2 million from 2021‑22 to 2024‑25 to support the agriculture sector to attract people to modern agriculture job opportunities. The initiative includes:

  • Seed funding for industry-led consortium to develop and pilot a structured employment program for school leavers to experience work in the agriculture industry.
  • Co-funding for innovative industry initiatives aimed at supporting upskilling, career progression pathways and mentoring workers.
  • Foundational work to better understand community perceptions of agricultural careers and to improve forecasting of agriculture labour force demand at the regional level.
  • An update of agriculture occupations and an interactive career advice map to ensure career advice and data reflect modern agriculture.

Improving employment opportunities – Building improvements in agricultural workforce practices

This initiative will provide $4.6 million from 2021-22 to 2024-25 to support agricultural employers and businesses build workforce management and planning practices. The initiative includes:

  • Practical support to agricultural employers to help implement modern workforce management and planning practices.
  • Funding to fast track horticulture growers’ and business’ participation and progress through the Fair Farms program.

Forestry and Fisheries - Optimising forestry and fisheries resources

Forestry

The Government is allocating $11.9 million over four years from 2021-22 to support innovation in the forestry sector, including extending the work of the nine current Regional Forestry Hubs for a further three years and establish two new hubs in Eden, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, and to undertake a feasibility study to build on the work of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation.

This support will continue and expand the regional forest hubs and their successful delivery of valuable detailed regional research and analysis about opportunities to grow the industry and pathways to realise those ambitions.

  • The nine current hubs cover the north-east, central-west and the south-west slopes of New South Wales; Gippsland Victoria, the Green Triangle across Victoria and South Australia, south-east and north Queensland, south-west Western Australia, and Tasmania. The current funding for these existing hubs is ending in the 2021–22 financial year.
  • The two new hubs will cover the forestry regions centred on Eden, New South Wales, and across the Northern Territory.
    • The Eden area covers the forestry sector working between Sydney and the Victorian border, and inland to Bombala/Cooma – an area that was severely impacted by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires – and includes both native and plantation forest resources.
    • The Northern Territory hub will support forestry across a number of diverse enterprises, including Indigenous forestry operations on the Tiwi Islands, and forestry operations in areas where Indian sandalwood and African mahogany plantations are expanding.

This investment includes $1.3 million in 2021-22 to conduct a feasibility study into a national-level approach to Australian forestry industry research and development, building on the regionally based National Institute for Forest Products Innovation and Forest and Wood Products Australia (the forest industries research and development corporation).

  • The feasibility study will examine and report on priorities to underpin growth in the forestry industry through the research and development effort of industry, the research community and government.

Fisheries

A $0.9 million expansion of the Tuna Champions Program aims to encourage responsible take by recreational fishers and underpins resource-sharing arrangements between the recreational and commercial sectors. An extension until 2023-24 will continue the program, including the successful operation of its online support tool, and expand its focus to include additional tuna species.

The clear gains exhibited by the program will continue for another three years, delivering responsible resource use among the community of recreational fishers.

Forestry and Fisheries – Plantation Development Concessional Loans

In 2021-22, $37.5 million in existing loan funding will be made available for Plantation Development Concessional Loans to support plantation development in regional Australia in areas where commercial forestry is traditionally undertaken.

New plantations will help kick-start the growth of Australia’s stalled plantation estate and boost the future wood supply nationally. It will help support jobs and growth in forestry-dependent regions, and will support the future wood supply for wood manufacturing and other sectors including construction. Total national direct employment in the forestry sector was estimated to be 51,983 persons in 2016 (ABS Census data).

Australian Climate Service

The Australian Government is investing $209.7 million over four years from 2021-22, $37.3 million ongoing, to establish the new Australian Climate Service, a world class capability in sourcing and delivering climate information to support Australia’s disaster resilience and climate adaptation efforts. The Service will begin on 1 July 2021.

The Australian Climate Service will better connect and leverage the Government’s extensive climate and natural disaster risk data, information and capabilities. This will enable the Government to anticipate, manage and adapt to increasing climate change impacts. It will help the Government to better reduce risks and prepare for future natural hazards such as cyclones, bushfires and floods.

The Service will help us make better decisions about what to build and where, and help us build back better after natural disasters. The service will help monitor and evaluate the impact of Australia’s investments and build Australia’s resilience over time.

The Australian Climate Service will draw and build on the expertise of the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, creating a powerful new partnership to support this generation and the next. In addition it will:

  • Develop new and updated national climate projections to understand how Australia’s climate is changing at local and regional scales.
  • Provide new location data to target recovery assistance to businesses and people affected by natural disasters, no matter how far away or how small their town might be.
  • Assess freight and transport disruption and anticipate flow on impacts for communities and businesses before natural disasters occur to minimize possible economic harm to our communities and vital agricultural regions.

The National Climate Service will implement the Government’s response to multiple recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, including the implementation of a national disaster risk information service capability. In the 2020-21 MYEFO the Government committed $12.9 million in 2020-21 to undertake priority research and development to support the establishment of the Australian Climate Service by 1 July 2021.

Aviation and tourism support – Maintain meteorological services

The Government will provide $55.8 million over two years ($26.7 million in 2021-22) to supplement revenue for the Bureau of Meteorology’s Aviation Meteorological Service Program following a downturn in aviation activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of its aviation meteorological services, the Bureau of Meteorology provides aerodrome forecasts for around 200 airports, most of which service regional areas. Emergency services, agricultural industries and the general public will benefit from ongoing flight activity facilitated by these services.

Ocean Leadership Package

The Government is investing in a package of measures that support the Prime Minister’s vision for Australia as a global leader in ocean management.

At a cost of $100.1 million, it includes four complementary initiatives that will build ocean health and resilience, while stimulating economic growth through job creation across regional Australia. It will deliver partnerships to support private sector investment in fisheries, tourism and research sectors, and facilitate Indigenous management of sea country. This includes:

  • Practical action to restore, conserve and account for blue carbon ecosystems in Australia and overseas ($30.7 million). This will improve and maintain the health of coastal environments, including tidal marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, leading to biodiversity, livelihood and climate outcomes. Over $19 million will go to four major on-the-ground projects restoring coastal ecosystems across the country and enhancing regional employment opportunities.
  • Partnerships for Australian Marine Park management that will support up to 60 new jobs and provide opportunities for engagement in marine park management with community and Indigenous groups, marine businesses and industry bodies, research organisations and the private philanthropic sector. They will also, include actions to support the health and sustainability of waters around Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories ($39.9 million).
  • Recognise sea country in up to nine new or expanded Indigenous Protected Areas, providing social, cultural and environmental benefits, while increasing employment opportunities in remote communities ($11.6 million).
  • On-water and on-ground actions to protect iconic marine species, improve the sustainability of our fisheries through reducing bycatch, reducing the threat of invasive species on island ecosystems and stimulating investment in our oceans and blue economy ($18 million).

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 –Assessment and approvals

The Government is investing $29.3 million over four years from 2021-22 to continue to deliver its commitment to a staged program of reforms aligned with the Independent Review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act 1999. This funding will progress priority reforms including necessary assurance mechanisms for single touch environmental approvals and a streamlined process that will remove duplication between national and state-level environmental assessments. It will also support regional planning to complement single-touch approval agreements, continuation of Indigenous heritage reform, and short-term funding to maintain on-time approvals of development proposals during the transition to single-touch approvals. These measures will accelerate Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery and create jobs while maintaining environmental outcomes, with flow-on benefits for regional Australia. Funded measures include:

  • $9 million over four years from 2021-22 to establish and support an independent Environment Assurance Commissioner, which will ensure community confidence in the effective operation of the single touch approvals system.
  • $2.7 million over three years from 2021-22 to develop a pilot regional plan for a priority development region with a willing State or Territory government. This investment will provide businesses in the identified priority development region with greater certainty of their environmental approval requirements and will reduce their need to source and provide specific environmental information.
  • $0.5 million over 18 months from 2021‑22 to engage with stakeholders, including Indigenous Australians, on models for improved Indigenous heritage protection.
  • $17.1 million over 12 months from 2022 to maintain on-time Commonwealth environmental approvals during the establishment and transition to single-touch approvals. This builds on the Government’s existing investments, including $25 million over 18 months from January 2020 to June 2021 and $12.4 million over six months from July 2021 to December 2021, to improve the timeliness of approvals.

Farm Household Allowance Business Income Reconciliation Debt Waiver

The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program is an uncapped, demand-driven income support payment that is only available to farmers and their partners in hardship who meet (and continuously meet) the income and assets tests. It is delivered by Services Australia on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The program delivers wide-ranging benefits to regional Australia and supports drought affected communities by enabling recipients to support local businesses by paying for household goods and services.

The Government is waiving FHA business reconciliation debts for around 5,300 farmers, which will remove a confusing and counterproductive element of past FHA settings, and align it to its present state. This aligns with the recommendations of and reforms resulting from the farmer-led Review of the Farm Household Allowance Program. Regional Australia has been hit hard by a succession of natural disasters including drought, flood, bushfire and the COVID-19 pandemic, and waiving the FHA-associated debt will help people who need it most, as well as improving business confidence across regional Australia.

The cost of this measure to underlying cash is $14.7 million.

Supporting Trade – Funding projects in collaboration with the perishable agriculture goods industry to improve market transparency

The Government is committing $5.4 million over four years from 2021-22 to improve market transparency in the fresh food supply chain. The new initiative responds to the recommendation of the Australian Consumer and Competition’s, Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry report that governments and perishable agricultural goods (PAG) industries should explore measures to increase price transparency, in order to increase competition in these industries. It includes the delivery of workshops with industries to understand their specific market transparency requirements and grants to develop and implement tailored mechanisms to improve price and market transparency. The PAG industries comprise meat products (such as pork, lamb, beef and chicken), eggs, seafood, wine grapes, dairy and horticulture.

Enabling fresh food supply chain participants to make choices based on accessible and credible market information will increase the effectiveness of markets, improve perceptions of fairness and build trust among supply chain participants. This will lead to greater capital investment on farms, supporting job security and creation in rural communities, and overall rural economic improvement.

Future Drought Fund

The $5 billion Future Drought Fund (FDF) provides secure, continuous funding for drought resilience initiatives. These initiatives support Australian farmers and communities to prepare for and become more resilient to the effects of future drought.

The FDF began with an initial credit of $3.9 billion. Earnings are reinvested until the balance reaches $5 billion (expected in 2028-29). $100 million will be made available each year from the FDF, on an ongoing basis, to support Australian farmers and communities.

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.

The Australian Government began the rollout of foundational programs for the FDF in 2020-21, and is investing $172.5 million over the next three years from 2021-22. This funding will deliver a range of activities that will extend foundational programs, providing farmers and farming communities with a ‘toolbox’ of capabilities and services to strengthen preparedness and resilience to future droughts.

Commonwealth Deregulation Agenda – Technological innovation to deliver fisheries deregulation

The Australian Government is investing $20.1 million over four years from 2021-22 to reduce regulatory burden and improve services for approximately 1,220 Australian fishing businesses, mainly located in regional Australia. The investment includes the E‑Fish and E-Monitoring programs that will support fishers to cost-effectively meet their data provision requirements, minimise government duplication and reduce regulatory impacts and costs. It will also support evidence-based decision making to maximise returns to regional businesses.

Fishing businesses operate from regional ports such as Cairns, Eden, Hobart, Kurumba, Lakes Entrance, Mooloolaba, Port Lincoln and Ulladulla. This investment will help Australian fishing businesses retain a competitive advantage and provide the information businesses need to maintain market access, diversify into new markets and seek price premiums for existing products.

The $10.1 million E‑Fish program will modernise the Information Technology infrastructure and systems that underpin the collection of fisheries data. It will also support the integration of that data with data collected by other government agencies. For example, merging fisheries data with data from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Bureau of Meteorology will increase flexibility for operators and reduce the costs of administration. Investment in this transformative program also provides scope to integrate data collected across the supply chain, supporting industry to meet traceability and provenance requirements.

Investing $10 million in the E-Monitoring Program will expand and enhance the collection and use of fine-scale data for evidence-based decision making and risk assessment. Data collected through electronic monitoring allows fisheries managers to assess performance on an individual vessel level and incentivises the adoption of best practices by individual fishers to minimise, for example interactions with protected species. 

Commonwealth’s Deregulation Agenda – Proof of concept trials for new third-party arrangements for imported cargo

The Government is investing $3.2 million in 2021-22 to build and trial new industry arrangements to reduce red tape and regulatory costs for importers and agricultural businesses.

This proposal will involve the design and delivery of up to three pilots to test the ability to manage end-to-end biosecurity risks across importer supply chains. The pilots will act as proofs of concept and will inform work with the Australian Border Force towards an improved cargo intervention model and single trade window as part of the Government’s Simplified Trade System reform agenda.

If successful, the pilots will lead to more permanent arrangements that will reduce regulatory costs for high-volume importers with proven compliance track records and already invest heavily in commercial assurance systems. Faster clearance of imported cargo will provide downstream benefits throughout the agricultural and import supply chain, including to farm businesses, processors, wholesalers, and exporters, as well as brokers, freight forwarders and shippers. It will also benefit the broader community, including regional businesses seeking to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19, and help to drive business growth and job creation.   

Farmers and producers accessing overseas markets rely on robust biosecurity controls to avoid costly exotic pests and diseases faced by overseas growers, which in turn boosts their profits. Streamlined biosecurity clearances will also improve access to goods needed to operate or advance their business where these are not manufactured or are in short supply within Australia.

Rural Financial Counselling Service – Funding increase

The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) provides free and independent financial counselling to eligible primary producers who are experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship. The Government is providing an additional $5 million in 2021‑22 to give RFCS organisations certainty to meet growing demand, enhance services and manage fluctuating client loads more effectively. This injection takes the total funding for the 2021 to 2024 program to over $61 million.

Drought Communities Small Business Support Program Pilot extension

The Drought Communities Small Business Support Program pilot will be extended by six months to continue delivering free financial counselling, related support and professional services to small regional businesses affected by drought, the COVID‑19 pandemic, and/or the 2019‑20 bushfires. This $3.5 million investment takes the total program funding to over $16 million from 2019-20 to 2021-22, enabling more rural and regional businesses to remain resilient while facing a downturn and maintain the capacity to rebound when normal trading conditions resume. The pilot is being delivered by existing providers across regional Australia and ends on 31 December 2021.

Murray-Darling Basin Integrated Basin Water Modelling Uplift Program

The Government is improving water modelling technology and water decision-making tools for managing the water resources of the Basin. The Murray–Darling Basin Authority will bring the current outdated and disconnected river modelling technology up to a modern standard that is integrated across Basin jurisdictions.

Improved Basin water models will enable more timely and effective water management decisions, improve transparency, and increase the availability of water information to Basin Governments, communities and industry stakeholders.

Updated modelling capability will provide sophisticated scenario planning to inform Government, and in turn communities, on water policy, planning, compliance and emergency response decisions.

Response to the ACCC inquiry into Murray-Darling Basin water markets

The ACCC released its final report on the Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry on 26 March 2021. As an initial response, the Australian Government is investing $3.5 million in 2021-22 to establish an Expert Panel to work with the Australian Government, Murray-Darling Basin states, industry and other stakeholders to develop a roadmap for water market reform. It is important that all water stakeholders are consulted as part of the reform process.

In the past two decades water trading in the Murray-Darling Basin has evolved into a complex water market worth more than $1.8 billion per year. Tradeable water rights are a significant asset for many farmers. This initiative will facilitate a phased reform process that increases the transparency and efficiency of water markets, and delivers significant economic benefits to regional communities who depend on irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Off-Farm Efficiency Program

The Government has established the Off-Farm Efficiency Program to accelerate water recovery and deliver off-farm water infrastructure projects. The program will contribute towards the 450 gigalitres (GL) target of water recovery for the environment and will be funded through the Water for the Environment Special Account, which has funding available until 30 June 2024.

The Off-Farm Efficiency Program will provide:

  • $1.33 billion for state-led arrangements to deliver off-farm infrastructure improvements that will improve water use efficiency.
  • $150  million for Government-led grant opportunity for projects that may not be suitable for inclusion under state-led arrangements.
  • $60 million for state-led on-farm projects that can demonstrate community and industry support and positive socio-economic benefits.

This initiative will have positive economic impacts across regional Basin communities. It will enable the creation of jobs in regional areas through water infrastructure investment that will benefit local communities, the environment, irrigation industries, service providers and Indigenous communities. The Government has already committed $177.5 million to modernise and upgrade ageing off-farm water infrastructure in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District, creating hundreds of jobs and generating 15.9 GL of environmental water savings.

In the short to medium term, irrigation network operators and the surrounding communities will be positively affected by the investment in construction activities. Over the medium to longer term, benefits will flow to irrigation networks, irrigators, related secondary industries and surrounding communities. Benefits will include improved water delivery efficiency and greater economic activity, as well as being better able to manage a water-constrained future.

Economic benefits will also accrue to industries reliant on recreational fishing and tourism as more water is returned to the environment.

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme – extension

The Australian Government is extending the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme by twelve months to 30 June 2022. Extending this program will maximise the opportunity for drought-affected farmers to receive the rebate.

This scheme helps Australian farmers to better prepare, respond to and recover from drought. The scheme provided more than 7,700 rebates delivering over $42 million to drought-affected farmers in the first round.

Primary producers and horticulture farmers can apply for rebates to buy and install on farm water infrastructure to water livestock and permanent plantings.

Eligible farmers can claim up to 25 per cent (of which at least 50 per cent of the rebate will be provided by the relevant State or Territory government) of expenses for on-farm water infrastructure up to a maximum total rebate of $25,000. The scheme will close on 30 June 2022 or when the funding is exhausted, whichever occurs first.

The extended scheme will provide an immediate economic stimulus to boost local workforce participation and have a positive flow-on impact on supply-chains and other regional businesses adversely affected by drought and bushfires. Over time, better efficiencies will also lead to sustainable enterprises and improved profit margins.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – Supporting Tourism and Review of Current Charging Structure

The Great Barrier Reef is a global icon and a World Heritage Area. It is one of the most complex natural systems on earth and an economic powerhouse that supports Australia’s national economy, at both community and regional scales. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reef facilitated employment of more than 64,000 full-time positions, predominantly in regional areas throughout Queensland. It generated nearly $7 billion per annum in revenue predominately through the tourism and commercial fishing sectors.

Tourism visitation to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park declined by 73 per cent between April and December 2020. As part of the Government’s response to the economic hardship experienced by regional tourism industries, a total of $14.1 million will be committed over two years from 1 July 2021 to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to reduce the regulatory burden for tourist operators, enabling them to focus on the recovery of their businesses and to ensure continuing world-class management of the Reef. This new funding initiative:

  • Provides $2.2 million to undertake a comprehensive review of the fee charging structure in place for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with the aim of decreasing regulatory and administrative burden for tourist operators.
  • Provides $11.9 million to supplement the Authority’s operational budget, removing its reliance on revenue from the Environmental Management Charge (EMC). This allows for regulatory amendments to remove the need for tourist operators to collect and remit the EMC for another twelve months.

This initiative is in addition to the existing Government commitment to waive the EMC up to 30 June 2021.

Strengthening biosecurity measures at the border

The Government is providing surge capacity to respond to the changing khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) threat. Urgent actions are being implemented in phases, supported by a $14.5 million investment over 18 months from 2020‑21, to safeguard Australia against this significant pest.

The funding will provide additional resourcing to:

  • Expedite clearances of containerised cargo, some additional targeted surveillance operations, and progress the development of an overseas treatment provider assurance program.
  • Streamline risk profile settings for better targeted and timely container intervention.
  • Funding to scope new rapid diagnostic technology, including eDNA.
  • A limited program of additional testing of containerised cargo.
  • Provide operational system enhancements to support mandatory treatment of containers arriving from khapra-affected countries.

Backing Australian farmers to expand horizons in 2021

The Government is investing $72.7 million over three years from 2020-21 to help Australian farming, forestry and fishing exporters to expand and diversify their export markets through the Agri-Business Expansion Initiative (ABEI).

Approximately 322,000 people are employed across Australia’s agriculture sector, most in regional Australia, and 70 per cent of the value of Australia’s agricultural production is exported. Agriculture and agricultural exports are a central pillar of regional Australian economies.

There are five elements to this initiative:

  • $42.9 million to support 2,000 agri-food exporters through the Austrade-led Excelerate program, providing targeted advice and trade missions to help exporters grow in new and existing markets.
  • $18.4 million over two years from 2020-21 to extend the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program, to develop strategic partnerships with industry to support trade expansion and diversification.
  • $6.8 million over 18 months from 2020-21 to accelerate the negotiation of technical agreements to progress food safety, animal health and biosecurity protocols with trading partners by boosting Australia’s scientific and technical capabilities.
  • $3.5 million over 18 months from 2020-21 for three new short-term agricultural counsellors, able to be rapidly deployed to pursue market access priorities with the greatest commercial prospects.
  • $1 million over 18 months from 2020-21 to boost to market intelligence capability to give exporters the information they need to grow their exports.

The ABEI will have a positive impact on agricultural and food producing and manufacturing regions across Australia. It will benefit regional communities by growing agricultural and food exports and diversifying into new markets — helping to overcome challenges Australia’s regional agricultural industries face and position them for long-term growth.

Current Initiatives

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 Government has provided relief to these industries through the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, established in March 2020 to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This includes support that 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. Activities under some measures will continue into 2021-22, including:

  • $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 that encourages Australians to eat more healthy sustainable Australian seafood. This campaign commenced in November 2020 and will continue in 2021-22.
  • $20 million for the Reef Builder Costal Communities Recovery Project in 2020-21, which will restore 13 shellfish reefs. Local industries will be engaged in the construction of these reefs that, once established, will help support the aquaculture and tourism sectors. Projects are expected to be undertaken into the 2021-22 financial year.
  • $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. Activities under this measure will continue into 2021-22.

Wine tourism and Cellar Door Grants

The Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant program provides wine producers who exceed their wine equalisation tax rebate cap access to a grant of up to $100,000 for their eligible cellar door sales. The grant will be available through Wine Australia from 2019‑20 to 2021‑22 and the program is capped at $10 million per year. Wine tourism is an important part of many regional economies. The grant is expected to have a positive economic and social impact on wine producers and tourism operators in regional Australia. It will encourage producers to invest in and build winery cellar doors, which may lead to more investment in tourism opportunities.

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. The Government remains committed to helping regional Australia recover from the bushfires, with a range of measures to support the recovery of wildlife and their habitat, invest in a stronger and more resilient agriculture sector and support a sustainable forestry industry. A number of immediate relief and recovery support measures were delivered over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years. Continuing measures include:

  • $200 million to help native wildlife and their habitats recover from the devastating impacts of the fires.
    • An initial $53.4 million investment for urgent intervention for two years from 2019-20 to assist with the immediate survival and recovery of affected animals and plants, with a number of activities to continue into 2021-22 to ensure more enduring recovery outcomes.
    • A further $149.7 million investment over two years from 2020-21 to support the sustained efforts required for the long-term recovery of 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.
  • $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.

National Forest Industries Plan

The 2018‑19 Budget included $20 million over the four years from 2018-19 to 2021-22 to assist with the implementation of the National Forest Industries Plan.

The plan and its actions focus on growing the forestry, forest products and wood fibre industries across Australia, and benefitting the value chains and regional communities that rely on these industries.

In delivering against these four priority areas:

  • Nine Regional Forestry Hubs have been established to identify factors that are limiting growth in the forestry industries.
  • The Australian Government has amended the regulations for the Emissions Reduction Fund to make it easier for plantation expansion to occur in areas where water availability has been assessed.
  • A new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation Centre in Gippsland, Victoria has been established to fund research to assist industry in maximising the value of forest resources and forest products.
  • To assist community understanding of forest and wood resources the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences is mapping the extent of private native forestry, farm forestry and Indigenous owned or managed forests. The results of these assessments will be published in late 2021.

Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters

The Government is investing in a suite of reforms to accelerate trade growth as agriculture recovers from drought, bushfires and the 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 streamline administrative requirements while contributing to the industry’s goal of $100 billion in farm gate production by 2030. The package includes:

  • $222.2 million for Digital Services to Take Farmers to Markets, which will transform export regulatory systems including through implementing a suite of contemporary and connected digital services for exporters. This will reduce the administrative burden on Australia’s agricultural exporters and producers.
  • $14.3 million to improve regulation, including for the delivery of risk and compliance-based regulation for the seafood and live animal export sectors and the introduction of case managers to assist new and existing exporters to grow their exports.
  • $10.9 million for Building a More Competitive Export Meat Industry  modernisation activities specifically designed for the meat processing sector. A package of modernisation proposals has been developed in conjunction with, and strongly supported by, industry leaders – including senior representatives of the Australian Meat Industry Council and other export meat processing establishments. The modernisation proposals are designed to streamline export and production costs to remain competitive, and are centred on three key objectives:
    • Mechanisms for improving meat safety outcomes and supply chain integrity.
    • A reduction in regulatory costs without impacting regulatory compliance or market access outcomes and increasing global competitiveness and market reach.
    • Maintaining Australia’s strong global reputation for a robust and verifiable regulatory meat export system.
  • $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.

The reforms will lead to annual government fees and charges being over $20 million lower than expected from 2023-24 and generating over $200 million of other benefits to industry by 2030. Primary producers will also benefit through increased opportunities to have their products exported to high-value markets.

New deregulation agenda

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

  • $21.4 million over three years from 2019-20 to implement a new trade information service for exporters, led by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission.
  • $14.8 million over six years from 2019-20 to reduce regulatory burden and streamline audit arrangements in the dairy sector under the Dairy Export Assurance Program. The program consists of three projects that focus on raising export awareness, reducing regulatory burden and streamlining audit arrangements in the dairy sector.
  • $29.2 million over four years from 2019-20 for export certification modernisation and digitisation.
  • $26.8 million over three years from 2019-20 for the digital transformation of environment approvals.

These measures focus on improving systems to enhance the Government’s service to stakeholders.

Modernising agricultural trade

Agricultural exports are a major contributor to Australia’s economic growth. To keep pace in a highly competitive international trade environment, the Australian Government is investing $32.4 million over four years from 2018‑19 in new initiatives to support exporters and modernise Australia’s export systems. Farmers and exporters around the country will benefit through increased opportunities to have their products exported to high value markets.

Information and support for farmers to help with the export process will improve the accuracy and accessibility of information provided to farmers and exporters on importing country requirements. This will help farmers to seize the export opportunities that are available through new free trade agreements and market access improvements.

The package also protects Australia’s clean, green brand through activities to provide assurance to importing markets, including development of streamlined and improved third party assurance arrangements that are more efficient, have a lighter regulatory burden and lower costs to exporters, and greater acceptance by Australia’s trading partners.

The Government is supporting agricultural exports through new information technology systems to streamline export certification and other administrative processes.

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 Government is supporting further surveys into antimicrobial resistance in farmed animals and veterinary practices to understand current antimicrobial usage in farmed and companion animals to help identify improvements. These surveys will be carried out in conjunction with the four year expansion of the Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia surveillance program. An antimicrobial resistance survey commenced in partnership with the chicken meat industry in 2020-21. Additional surveys in other animal sectors will commence in 2021-22. An antimicrobial prescribing behaviour survey in the animal health sector is currently being developed.

Survey data is critical for assessing the risks and preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobials for treating human and animal infections. This measure strengthens the Government’s national leadership in responding to antimicrobial resistance, helping preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials, and limiting 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 Government has committed $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.

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

The Government is providing $6.4 million over three years from 2020-21 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. In 2021-22, training at three different levels will be delivered: foundational, advanced regulatory practice, and leading regulators.

Pest and Disease Preparedness and Response Programs

The Australian Government continues to support the eradication of exotic animal and plant pests and diseases that, if allowed to establish and spread, would have serious economic and environmental impacts on agricultural industries, health and the environment. Through the National Partnership on Pest and Disease Preparedness and Response Programs, the Government is providing up to $152.6 million over four years from 2019–20 to support nationally agreed eradication responses.

The Government also continues to strengthen Australia’s ability to prepare for, detect and respond to emergency and emerging priority pests and diseases through the Priority Pest and Disease Planning and Response Program ($17.6 million over four years from 2020‑21). This program funds development and implementation of national action plans to address the risks posed by priority pests and diseases to trade, the environment and public health together with developing innovative approaches to improve surveillance activities and maintaining and improving Australia’s diagnostic capacity and capability for emergency and emerging pests and diseases.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

The Australian Government is delivering on its 2016 election commitment to invest $20 million over five years from 2017‑18 to support the establishment and work of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions is a national collaborative research, development and extension organisation, formed to assist with the management of invasive species and the threat to agricultural industries and the environment. It brings together government, industry and research partners to create a coordinated, collaborative and innovative set of research and extension projects. The Government’s investment in the work of the Centre is expected to leverage up to $70 million cash and in-kind support from universities, State and Territory governments, the CSIRO and industry partners.

Established Pest Animals and Weed Management Pipeline

The Australian Government is investing $30.3 million over four years from 2019‑20 to continue the fight against established pests and weeds and help limit their impact on Australia’s agriculture sector and the environment.

The objectives of the Pipeline program are:

  • National prioritisation and better information – to gain a better understanding of the distribution/impact of priority established pest animals and weeds on Australia’s agricultural sector and environment, to support targeted research, national coordination and information sharing.
  • Priority pest innovative solutions – to focus longer-term research efforts on innovative solutions for a set of priority established pest animals and weeds, such as biological controls, genetic modification technologies, digital disruption technologies and building on web-based technologies and electronic resources.
  • Farm-ready management techniques, national coordination and delivery – to increase the development and take-up of ‘farm-ready’ pest animal and weed management and control techniques through coordination, extension, adoption, and information sharing.

Red imported fire ants eradication program

The Australian, State and Territory governments are jointly investing $411.4 million over ten years from 2017‑18 to eradicate red imported fire ants from south-east Queensland. The Australian Government is contributing $212.5 million over ten years as a part of this package.

Red imported fire ants are one of the world’s worst invasive species due to their devastating economic, environmental and social impacts. If these ants were established in Australia, it would generate significant costs for all levels of government, including the public health system, schools, parks and wildlife, transport and roads, sport and recreation; as well as industry. Further, regional biodiversity and ecosystems would be irreparably damaged and quality of life in communities lowered.

Smart Fruit Fly Management

In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018‑19 the Government committed to investing $16.9 million over four years, starting in 2018‑19, in a nationally coordinated approach to manage fruit fly. Funding was provided to develop and harmonise the management of fruit fly across Australia, including research and development into applied techniques to manage the pest, and research ways to prevent their spread and support their eradication.

This investment will reduce the significant impact of fruit flies, which currently cost Australian horticulture producers hundreds of millions of dollars annually in control measures and productions losses.

Australia’s horticultural production is valued at over $12 billion and employs 50,000 rural and regional Australians. Horticulture exports were valued at over $2.2 billion in 2016‑17.

National Carp Control Plan

Carp are the worst freshwater aquatic pest in south-east Australia. They dominate the Murray-Darling Basin, where they can make up to 90 per cent of fish biomass, with significant detrimental effects on water quality and ecosystem health.

The Australian Government is investing $15 million from 2016-17 for the development and potential implementation of the plan, which will determine the feasibility of using Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (the carp virus) as a biological control agent for common carp, and ensure that the benefits, costs and risks are clearly understood. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation is leading the development of the plan which is expected to be finalised in late 2021. The plan will be a critical input for subsequent decisions by all governments on whether or not to proceed with release of the virus. Should a decision be made to proceed, successful implementation of the plan will provide an opportunity to improve the health of Australia’s inland waterways, bringing benefits to regional communities and water users, including farmers, recreational fishers and tourism operators.

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.

Relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)

The Australian Government is providing $25.6 million over six years, from 2016‑17 to relocate the APVMA from Canberra, to Armidale located in New South Wales. The APVMA now employs approximately 140 people at its new premises in Armidale. An additional $10.1 million over three years was committed in 2018-19 to deliver modern, digital business systems to transform the agency’s Information Communication Technology environment to facilitate improved capacity and more efficient and effective business operations.

The APVMA has improved its timeframe performance from 58 per cent of all applications finalised within timeframe in 2016-17 to 96 per cent in the December 2020 quarter.

Rural Research and Development for Profit Program

The Rural Research and Development for Profit Program is a $156.4 million program over nine years to 2022–23. It is providing rural research and development corporations with grants for collaborative research to improve productivity and profitability at the farm gate.

Grant funding provided to date comprises $26.7 million for 12 projects under round one, $52.2 million for 17 projects under round two, $35.8 million for seven projects under round three and $39.6 million for ten projects under round four. These funds have been matched by almost $170 million in cash and in-kind contributions from successful applicants and their partners, which has multiplied the impact of the projects. Twenty-three projects have been completed and are contributing improving productivity and profitability of the agriculture sector.

Regional Investment Corporation

The Australian Government provided an additional $2.1 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 over $4 billion in response to unprecedented demand for farm and small business drought concessional loans.

The Government introduced the two-year interest-free terms from 1 January 2020 for Drought Loans as a practical support mechanism for farmers and small businesses facing hardship due to ongoing severe drought conditions.

The AgriStarter Loan for the next generation of Australian farmers was launched on 1 January 2021, with an additional $75 million allocated for that financial year. The AgriStarter loan is designed to support people establishing a new farm business, buying an existing farm business or undertaking succession arrangement.

The RIC received an extra $50 million from the Australian Government over four years from 2020-21 in operational funding to deliver additional loans and process the significant demand for Drought Loans and AgBiz.

The RIC currently offer three loans to farmers: Drought Loans, Farm Investment Loans and Agristarter; and one loan to drought-affected small businesses, AgBiz.

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.

Phase 1 commenced on 29 June 2020 with $14.6 million available to South Australian growers. Phase 2 commenced in Western Australia ($1.5 million) on 8 April 2021. Funding agreements with Victoria ($4 million) and Queensland ($1.5 million) were executed in March 2021.

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 is funding primary 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.

Dairy Code of Conduct

In 2019-20, the dairy industry’s farm-gate production was worth $4.8 billion and over 43,500 people were directly employed on dairy farms and by dairy companies within Australia. For regional Australia, the dairy industry is a key employer and contributor to regional economies and towns.

The Government has committed $8.7 million over eleven years from 2019‑20 to introduce a mandatory Code of Conduct for the dairy industry. The Code will assist to shift the balance in bargaining power towards dairy farmers by setting enforceable minimum standards of conduct for business practices between farmers and dairy processors. The code will improve the transparency of transactions in the industry by setting out the key rights and obligations of each party, which will help to build confidence in the dairy industry. Implementation and enforcement of the Code will be the responsibility of the ACCC.

In 2021 the Australian Government will complete the first review of the Dairy Code to ensure it is operating as intended.

National Farm Safety Education Fund

The Australian Government committed $3.5 million over four years at the 2019 election to improve farm safety outcomes. The National Farm Safety Education Fund is delivering 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 is being provided to Farmsafe Australia from 2019‑20 to 2022‑23 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 National Farm Safety Education Fund Strategy. The Strategy was released on 17 March 2021 and will guide Australian Government investment for the remaining $1.6 million under the election commitment to support improved farm safety outcomes.

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

Beef Australia 2021

The Government committed $3.9 million over three years from 2019–20, to support the Beef Australia event in May 2021. The event is Australia’s largest trade show for the beef and cattle industries, held once every three years in Rockhampton, Queensland. It showcases the Australian beef industry to domestic and international trading partners. The last event, held in 2018, attracted over 100,000 visitors including over 1,200 international visitors from 43 countries.

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 reduce their decline. Due to delays caused by COVID-19 and the 2020 bushfires, the grant agreement was varied to extend the project for 12 months to June 2022.

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.

Seasonal Agricultural Labour Demand and Supply

The Government invested $4.7 million over four years, starting in 2018‑19, to better understand seasonal agricultural labour needs and inform future policy development. The program is providing more reliable information about workforce issues in the agriculture sector, including skilled and seasonal labour that is vital for the economic dividend that agriculture can provide to Australia’s rural and regional economies.

National Agricultural Workforce Strategy

The Government is investing $1.9 million over four years, beginning in 2019‑20, to develop a National Agricultural Workforce Strategy. The independent National Agricultural Labour Advisory Committee was appointed to develop the Strategy, which it has delivered to the Government. The Strategy aims to ensure farmers have access to a fit-for-purpose workforce into the future and recommends measures for improving the attraction, retention and skill development of the agricultural workforce.

Recreational Fishing and Camping Facilities Program

The Australian Government has committed $20 million from 2019-20 to the Recreational Fishing and Camping Facilities Program, delivering on its election commitment to provide increased and improved opportunities for locals and visitors to regional areas to go fishing. The program is being 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 three years from 2020-21 for fisheries habitat restoration to restore marine and estuarine habitats. Projects are being delivered by Regional Land Partnership service providers in consultation with recreational fishing groups from across regional Australia and projects are expected to commence in 2021.

Supporting Healthy Oceans

Australia is a world leader in marine protection and Australia’s 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 management 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 tackle the impacts of ghost nets (lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear) in Australia's northern waters.
  • $4.2 million over four years from 2020‑21 for international blue carbon and forest partnerships, supporting Australia's leadership of the International Partnership for Blue Carbon and delivering the 4th Asia‑Pacific Rainforest Summit 2022.

Supporting the Great Barrier Reef Tourism Industry

The Australian Government committed $11.6 million over three years from 2020‑21 to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The initiative will support the Authority to continue its world-class management of the Great Barrier Reef whilst supporting local businesses in a region significantly impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic. To date, $3.5 million has been provided. The remaining $8.1 million of funding includes:

  • $2.8 million in 2021-22 due to the extension of 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 the 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.

In 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. This is part of the overall $40.1 million provided to the Reef HQ Aquarium to renew exhibits, upgrade animal life support systems and improve visitor accessibility through 2022-23. The funding includes an ongoing contribution from 2023-24 at $1.8 million per year for maintenance and capital works.

Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s natural wonders, supporting tourism, fishing, recreation, traditional uses and research, and generating 64,000 jobs and $7 billion to the Australia’s economy each year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Reef is under pressure from a range of threats including climate change, poor water quality from land-based run-off, coastal development and direct uses such as fishing. The Government is deeply committed to protecting the Reef and has jointly developed and implemented with the Queensland Government the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, which focuses on supporting the Reef’s health and resilience to climate change by reducing local and regional pressures. The Plan is reviewed every five years, and an updated version will be released in 2021.

The Australian Government is investing substantial funding to support the plan with more than $1.9 billion allocated over 2014-15 to 2023-24 for initiatives such as water quality improvement, crown-of-thorns starfish control, science for reef restoration and adaptation, community engagement and improved monitoring. This includes through the $443.3 million Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The Great Barrier Reef Joint Field Management Program is putting more field officers on the water, improving compliance, providing early warning of environmental stresses and strengthening reef and island management. Further to this, the Government is financing clean energy projects in the Reef catchment area through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $1 billion Reef Fund, which tackles the two biggest challenges: climate change and water quality.

During 2020-21, the Government announced over $70 million in funding from the Reef Trust for programs that will focus on protecting the Great Barrier Reef. The funding helped support coastal habitat restoration, species protection and water quality improvement all while supporting regional jobs and empowering local communities. The Government also consulted with experts, stakeholders and the community during the review of the Reef 2050 Plan.

National Landcare Program

The Australian Government is investing $1.1 billion over six years from 2017‑18 in the National Landcare Program. The program will continue to improve natural resource management to protect Australia’s iconic places, plants and animals, secure agricultural productivity gains and farm-gate returns and strengthen regional economies. The funding will ensure the valuable work of Regional Natural Resource Management bodies, Landcare groups and Indigenous communities delivering on-ground biodiversity and sustainable agriculture outcomes continues.

The Smart Farms component of Landcare includes the following three elements:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships ($57.5 million over five years), which supports 26 large, multi-year grants for projects with organisations working in partnership to develop, trial and implement new and innovative practices and tools that support uptake of sustainable agriculture practices.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants (up to $43.5 million over five years), has to date supported 384 projects worth $25.5 million through four annual grant rounds to develop and extend new tools and technologies that help farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities increase their capacity to adopt best practice land management.
  • Building Landcare Community and Capacity ($35 million over six years), has to date supported 36 projects worth $32 million to support the sharing of knowledge and achievements and community leadership in adopting sustainable agricultural practices.

Under the Regional Land Partnerships component, $450 million is allocated to 220 environmental and sustainable agriculture projects. A network of 50 service providers nationwide are working in partnership with communities to design and deliver on-ground environment and agriculture projects at a regional scale that support national priorities for natural resource management. Environmental outcomes include recovering species identified under the Threatened Species Strategy, protecting threatened ecological communities, and reducing threats to Australia’s globally important wetlands and world heritage sites. Sustainable agriculture outcomes include improving soil, biodiversity and native vegetation on farms, and increasing the capacity of Australia’s farms to adapt to climate change and evolving market demands.

The Australian Government has also allocated $15 million to expand Indigenous Protected Areas, in addition to $93 million to support existing Indigenous Protected Areas (administered by the National Indigenous Australians Agency). This investment delivers benefits to the environment and local communities by safeguarding the biodiversity of the nation’s remote areas for present and future generations; protecting the cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their region; and providing employment, education and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas.

Environment Restoration Fund

The Australian Government committed $100 million for the Environment Restoration Fund over four years from 2019‑20. The Fund mobilises community and natural resource management organisations, local councils and other groups to deliver projects to protect and remediate Australia’s environment. To date funding has been allocated to 59 projects valued at $59.3 million to improve water quality and manage erosion in coasts and waterways, support the recovery and recycling of waste, and protect threatened species and their habitats. Applications for further projects have been invited through an open grant round to establish safe havens for threatened species. An additional $675,000 funding, to be delivered under the Environment Restoration Fund, was announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2020-21 to enable four South Australian environment and conservation groups to undertake threatened species recovery activities.

Yellow Crazy Ant Control

The Government is supporting the control of yellow crazy ants in the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site. These ants have devastating impacts on neighbourhoods, crops and biodiversity. The Government is providing $9.2 million over four years from 2019‑20 to expand on-ground management activities and improve community awareness. The funding provides economic benefits to the region by limiting the impacts of yellow crazy ants on local cane farmers, and protects the World Heritage Site.

Australian Heritage Grants Program

The Australian Government is providing an ongoing $5.3 million per year from 2018‑19 through the flagship Australian Heritage Grants Program to support management of National and Commonwealth heritage places. The program will support management, conservation and promotion activities for places in Australia recognised for their natural, Indigenous or historic heritage values. Many of the eligible National and Commonwealth heritage places are found in regional Australia. The program will support owners and managers of heritage places, along with community groups and other non-government entities, to protect and promote the heritage values for which places are listed.

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 more than $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 the National Partnership on Recycling Infrastructure through State and Territory governments. In some cases, these agreements specifically require states and territories to prioritise investment in regional and remote recycling facilities. To date, the Australian Government has provided co-funding of $13.1 million to eight projects across four states, in regional Australia. 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. 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 Recycling Modernisation Fund, 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, 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. Working with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, the Australian Government will undertake a packaging waste partnership program and pilot it in two remote communities in Northern Territory. This will deliver a model that can then be applied to other areas in regional and remote Australia.

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 Government has established a licensing and declaration scheme (the Waste Export Licensing and Declaration Portal) 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 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.

The Waste Data Visualisation Platform will assist in the identification of large volumes of waste, recyclate and recoverable materials in regional areas where no local recycling, reprocessing and remanufacturing facilities exist. This will identify opportunities for regional investment in new facilities which will support regional job growth. It will allow local, state and regional bodies to better target waste management interventions, support new innovations and foster entrepreneurship.

National Centre for Coasts, Environment and Climate

The Australian Government will provide $25 million over four years from 2019-20 to Monash University and the University of Melbourne to establish a coasts, environment and climate science research and education centre at the Quarantine Station Precinct at Point Nepean, Victoria.

The Centre will be a world-leading interdisciplinary research facility on marine and coastal ecosystems, climate science and environmental management. The centre will leverage its Point Nepean location and its existing capabilities as an integrated ocean and atmospheric observation site.

National Environmental Science Program

The National Environmental Science Program is a long-term commitment by the Government. The program funds environment and climate research.

The first phase invested over $145 million (2014‑15 to 2020‑21) into six research hubs and emerging priority research projects. The second phase will invest $149 million (2020‑21 to 2026‑27) into four new research hubs which will draw on expertise from research and other institutions across Australia.

The program:

  • Provides evidence for the design, delivery and on-ground outcomes for environmental programs.
  • Helps decision-makers, including those from Indigenous communities, build resilience.
  • Supports positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.

The second phase of the program facilitates place-based research and locally led solutions through local delivery regional centres (nodes). The program will also support the development of the science community in regional Australia.

Investing in Commonwealth National Parks

The Director of National Parks manages Australia’s six Commonwealth national parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and Australia’s network of Australian Marine Parks. The Director of National Parks employs over 300 staff in regional Australia (as at 31 March 2021). The majority are located in and around Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru‑Kata Tjuta national parks in the Northern Territory, and in Hobart. There are also small offices in the remote locations of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

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: Upgraded roads and a 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 as 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.

Parks Australia is well progressed on planning and procurement for this program. Approximately $20 million in value of multiple urgent projects have commenced in the 2020-21 financial year. Key priorities for the next 12 months is commencement of the infrastructure upgrades for the Mutitjulu community and the refurbishment of existing and new construction of staff housing in Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks.

Securing the Future of the Jabiru Township

The Government has committed up to $216.2 million over 10 years from 2018-19 to transition the Jabiru Township and Kakadu National Park to a post-mining future by growing the tourism economy and regional presence. Kakadu is a place of significant ecological and biological diversity with over 200,000 visitors per year on average prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment will ensure that Kakadu continues to be a world-class tourist destination that supports the local economy. The funded program is focused on improving access and upgrading infrastructure at key visitor sites throughout Kakadu, remediating the Jabiru Township and relocating the Kakadu Visitor Centre into Jabiru.

The investment in Jabiru and Kakadu has significant benefits for the region, providing employment and economic opportunities for Traditional Owners to build on their vision for supporting tourism on their land.

Two key planning documents under this program, the Kakadu Tourism Masterplan and the Kakadu Roads Strategy, were completed in 2020-21. Approximately $22 million value of infrastructure projects from the Kakadu Tourism Masterplan have commenced.

Australia’s Investment in Antarctica

Australian Government funding for the Australian Antarctic Program protects and advances Australia’s long standing national interests in the Antarctic region. Basing the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart continues to bring economic benefits to Tasmania, positioning the city as the premier scientific research hub and logistics gateway for East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Tasmania’s Antarctic sector largely centres on the Australian Antarctic Division and represents a significant element of the state’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. The staging of Australian Antarctic Program shipping and aviation activity through the Hobart port and airport continues to boost the state economy, contributing to employment and local investment.

The Government is progressing key priorities in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20‑Year Action Plan. The new $1.9 billion world‑class icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, will be home-ported in Hobart and is scheduled to commence operations during the 2021-22 Antarctic summer season. A final investment decision on constructing the first paved runway in Antarctica near Australia’s Davis Research Station is expected in the first half of 2022.

The Government is also providing more than $450 million over ten years for additional capital expenditure on Australia’s Antarctic research stations. This investment supports the Hobart City Deal and is expected to create around 40 jobs in Tasmania. Separate funding of $49.8 million over 11 years is also being provided to substantially upgrade Macquarie Island Research Station.  Sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island is part of Tasmania and located in the Southern Ocean around 1,500 kilometres southeast of the state. These works and the ongoing operation of the station through the Australian Antarctic Program will bring economic benefits to Tasmania.

New Antarctic science funding was announced in the 2018-19 Budget, with the Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science awarded to Monash University ($36 million over seven years) and the University of Tasmania ($20 million over three years). This funding is additional to the $5 million per year from 2019-20 awarded to the University of Tasmania to host the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership through the 10-year Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative. The Australian Antarctic Division is working closely with these partnerships to develop detailed research programs and operational support plans to undertake research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. These measures have a positive impact on the Antarctic science community through employment and research development opportunities, bolstering the status of Hobart as a premier research hub and benefiting the Tasmanian economy both directly and indirectly.

Funding for the Australian Antarctic Program and Antarctic science ensures critical functions that support Australia’s presence and research activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are maintained. This allows Australia to retain its leadership and influence in the Antarctic region, including through Hobart’s status as a premier Antarctic scientific research hub and logistics gateway.

Bureau of Meteorology – Improved Security and Resilience

The Australian Government will provide $225.6 million over three years from 2020‑21 and $143.7 million per year indexed and ongoing from 2024-25 to ensure the long‑term financial sustainability of the Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau) and the maintenance of its mainly regional observing systems infrastructure. The funding includes:

  • 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.
  • Improving the security, resilience and reliability of the Bureau’s Observing Systems Network infrastructure. The financial implications of this element are not for publication due to commercial‑in‑confidence sensitivities.

Bureau of Meteorology — Additional radars and rain gauges

The Australian Government is providing $77.2 million over 23 years from 2019-20 to improve weather radar coverage in regional areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales. Funding will support the installation of new radars and associated rain gauges near Richmond and Greenvale in north Queensland; new radars near, Taroom and Oakey in the Western and Southern Darling Downs; and the relocation of a radar from Moree to Boggabilla in northern New South Wales.

Milestones for 2021-22:

  • The Greenvale (upper Burdekin) radar is scheduled to be operational ahead of the onset of the 2021-22 severe weather season.
  • The Taroom region radar is expected to be operational by December 2021.

The Government will also invest $15.4 million in installation of a new radar in Tennant Creek to address gaps in coverage in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory. The new radar is part of the Barkly Regional Deal with an additional co-contribution of $2.5 million from the Northern Territory Government. The new radar is expected to be delivered in late 2022.

The radars and rain gauges will provide real-time information on rainfall, hail and dust storm events to enable communities and farmers to prepare for extreme weather events and make more informed decisions on how best to manage their land and businesses.

Bureau of Meteorology — Commonwealth Water Functions

The Australian Government will provide $300.1 million as ongoing funding over ten years from 2017-18 to continue the implementation of the Water Information Program. The funding provides essential information and services to the agricultural and water sectors, including physical water accounts and water trade data.

Under this Program the Bureau will continue to provide farmers, irrigators and rural water agencies with essential information and services that are critical to the profitability and productivity of Australian agriculture and support community wellbeing in regional Australia.

Essential information and services for farmers, irrigators, water supply agencies and policy makers will support national decision making on water security.

Murray-Darling Basin Communities Investment Package

The Australian Government is providing 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:

  • $34 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.
  • $20 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 to engage Indigenous River Rangers to undertake on-ground works over a 12-month period commencing 1 July 2021. The aim is to increase Indigenous people’s access to water for economic and social purposes, and embedding Indigenous participation in delivery of the Basin Plan.

The package also includes funding to build trust, transparency and accountability in the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and to improve its implementation.

Healthy Rivers Program

The Australian Government's Murray–Darling Healthy Rivers Program will improve the health and ecological condition of rivers and wetlands across the Basin, while supporting economic development and jobs. This program was announced as part of the Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package.

The program will provide up to $20 million over two years for community-led grants to implement on-ground projects across the Basin. Communities will be able to deliver practical, local solutions that both improve the local environment and deliver jobs in regional areas. Grant recipients will be encouraged to preference local and Australian made suppliers when sourcing project materials.

Goulburn Murray Water Connections Project Stage 2

The Goulburn Murray Water Connections Project Stage 2 is designed to save water by creating a world leading irrigation system to boost irrigator productivity, help communities and foster healthy waterways and wetlands. This project is the most significant investment in modernising irrigation infrastructure in Australia.

The Goulburn Murray Water Connections Project is a $1 billion investment to upgrade irrigation infrastructure to ensure the future of irrigated agriculture and bolster the economy in northern Victoria. The project will provide strong regional stimulus benefits from investment in infrastructure, with long-term improvements in crop production and socio-economic outcomes.

Murray-Darling Economic Development Program

The Murray-Darling Economic Development Program is supporting economic development projects in identified Basin communities impacted by water recovery under the Basin Plan.

The program is supporting up to $72.8 million in grants through three funding rounds delivered between 2019-20 and 2022-23. The third round of the program, which was announced as part of the Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package, closed for applications on 12 April 2021.

The program is supporting eligible communities to develop their economies, increase job opportunities and enhance their resilience to manage economic challenges. By end of April 2021, the Australian Government has successfully delivered $23.8 million in funding, providing jobs and much-needed stimulus for businesses and regional communities in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism: Supply and Constraints measures

The Basin Plan provides for a mechanism to adjust sustainable diversion limits to achieve equivalent environmental outcomes with less water recovery. This relies on the implementation of supply and constraint measures.

The Australian Government is providing up to $1.4 billion over 10 years to 2023-24 for the implementation of these supply and constraints measures. Supply measures increase the quantity of water available for consumptive use by allowing environmental water managers to achieve outcomes more efficiently, reducing the amount of water needed for the environment. Constraints projects change physical structures or river management practices to enhance the delivery of environmental water.

Some supply and constraints measures involve the construction of infrastructure, providing investment and economic stimulus benefits to Basin regional communities.

Northern Basin Toolkit projects

The Australian Government is working with the New South Wales and Queensland governments to implement environmental works and measures identified in the Northern Basin Review, collectively known as the ‘Northern Basin Toolkit’.

The Australian Government is providing up to $180 million over five years to 2023-24 for the implementation of Toolkit projects. To date 10 Toolkit projects have been approved, including:

  • Promoting fish movement and habitat (such as building fishways) and improving environmental flows to wetlands (such as Macquarie Marshes).
  • Removal of flow constraints in the Gwydir catchment to improve flows to the Gwydir wetlands.

The NSW and Queensland governments are responsible for implementing Toolkit projects.

This funding will provide a much-needed economic stimulus to regional communities and create improved environmental outcomes in the northern Basin. For all environmental works, the Government expects proponents to preference local and indigenous suppliers and employment.

Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience

The Australian Government is committed to improving water security outcomes and drought resilience in the Great Artesian Basin. The Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience Program provides jurisdictions (South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Northern Territory) with up to $27.6 million of matching Australian Government funding over five years from 2019-20 to 2023‑24).

Funding supports activities to improve water security and drought resilience through increasing artesian pressure and reducing wastage of the resource. These activities include bore capping and piping, education and communication programs to manage Basin water, and research to develop new management arrangements.

The Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience Program supports the delivery of strategic investments in immediate and long-term measures to improve water security and drought resilience in the Great Artesian Basin. This will ensure the long-term success of $12.8 billion in economic activity annually from industries reliant on the Great Artesian Basin for water and provides further support to increased water demand from new or expanding industries.

Flows for the Future

The Australian Government has committed up to $32.5 million over seven years to help the Government of South Australia improve natural water flow patterns in the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Water Resource Area.

The initiative aims to reinstate more natural flow patterns to improve the environmental health of the region, which in turn supports the sustainability of tourism and agricultural industries.

Basin Plan Commitments Package

The Australian Government agreed the Basin Plan Commitments Package with the Federal Opposition in May 2018. It provides a package of initiatives to support the implementation of Murray-Darling Basin Plan up to 2023-24.

The package of commitments is organised under five streams:

  • Strengthening compliance and protecting environmental flows
  • Strengthening compliance with Basin water laws
  • Improving outcomes for Indigenous people, and addressing social and economic impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 
  • Improving confidence in Northern Basin Review data
  • Strengthening the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.