Federal Minister for Agriculture Sets Ambitions for Aussie Seafood

Alex Ogg (WAFIC interim CEO) with the Minister for Agriculture and Basil Lenzo (GFC Chair)

On Monday 17 June Deputy Leader for the Nationals, Bridget McKenzie, and her staff Rebecca Johnson and Lachlan Hunter, visited the GFC facility in Welshpool.

The meeting was attended by GFC Chair, EO and GM, the WRLC Chair and EO, David Carter (CEO of Austral), Alex Ogg (interim CEO of WAFIC) and Danika Gusmeroli.

Each industry representative had 5-10 minutes to discuss high-level topics with the Minister.

To begin with, there was a roundtable discussion with the Minister for just under an hour, with each person taking 5-10 minutes to discuss high-level issues and concerns of the day.  The Minister and staff were engaged and active in the conversation – seeing as this is her only opportunity to engage directly with the fishery sector before turning the portfolio over to her Assistant Minister (forestry and Fisheries), Jonathon Duniam.

Matt Rutter (GFC CEO), The Hon. Bridget McKenzie and Basil Lenzo (GFC Chair)

Alex Ogg, briefed the Minister on WAFIC’s role, and touched on the issues surrounding:

  • Resource access/resource sharing issues (marine reserves, environmental closures, compounding effects);
  • Importance of security of access rights to underpin future confidence, driving investment and growth (a common theme in the discussion);
  • Social acceptance and the importance of science over emotion, conservation estate, animal welfare risks and positive initiatives on reducing carbon footprint, plastics, and our food alliance collaboration; and
  • Growth opportunities: wild catch- through increased post-harvest product value, new market investment, new export opportunities.  Aquaculture potential through broadscale finfish and shell fish projects, export approval process and new species listings (China) expediency.

The Minister brought up the importance of cross sectoral relationships and sited WA’s ability to work with the recreational sector a lesson for the rest of Australia, and talked at length about the public image and social acceptance for our industry.  She has been a friend of industry during the CMR disallowance process and outspoken on the science over emotion debate around the super trawler debacle.

David (Austral Fisheries), Alex Ogg (WAFIC CEO) with Federal Agriculture Minister

The Minister’s priorities were on creating a Brand Australia across the portfolio, reliant upon:

  • Biosecurity
  • Workforce to support the industry (migrant vs domestic supply issues)
  • Vocational education priorities
  • Improved market access protocols (FTAs, particularly in Asia)

She was concerned over WRLs ‘single market’ reliance and vulnerability.

It was, all in all, a very productive first chat, laying the foundations for a future relationship with ‘our voice’ in cabinet.  The Minister was extremely engaged and supportive and will bring a pragmatic and enthusiastic approach to the agriculture portfolio.