Greenlife Industry Australia – Advocacy in Canberra
Glenn Fenton (President) and Peter Vaughan (CEO) met with the federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergence Management, the Hon. David Littleproud in Canberra on 16 June.
Glenn and Peter were fortunate to have been able to make it to Canberra and have the meeting given the evolving COVID situation, the ‘House’ sitting, the announcement of the Free Trade Agreement with UK on 15 June, and unbeknown at the time, the leadership discussions going on within the National Party.
The meeting had been a long time in planning and the following areas were discussed: thanks provided to the Minister for his support of the industry during COVID-19; an overview of Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) and the nursery industry; plant biosecurity and quarantine, key nursery levy investment programs; and primary industry careers. The Minister has a particular focus on plant biosecurity and how it contributes to protecting plant industries across the county and water security with his vision to ‘plumb the country’.
Peter Vaughan (CEO) and Glenn Fenton (President) meeting with the Federal Agriculture Minister Hon. David Littleproud in Parliament House.
Peter Vaughan was actively involved in the all of agriculture approach, to keeping the nursery industry open and able to trade, during the early part and on-going through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This was through GIA’s membership of the NFF Hort Council but also directly advocating to the Minister’s advisors and Department representatives. The greenlife industry, production nursery and garden centres were included in an ‘essential services’ list provided to National Cabinet and the Agriculture Ministers across the country. Glenn acknowledged the Minister’s support during COVID, and in keeping the industry and businesses operating, due to the contribution to the Australian economy and the health, nutrition and well-being of all Australians over the last year and a half. Glenn also reiterated that GIA is the peak industry body for the nursery industry nationally and that all State NGIs are members of GIA in supporting the national body.
The importance, significance and size of the industry was highlighted to the Minister based on the statistics obtained for the 2019/20 financial year from the nursery industry statistics project. The key stats being a ‘nursery gate’ value of $2.6B, 2.2B plants sold, workforce of 25,000, average turnover/ha of $440K and planting stock provided across the production (fruit, nut and vegetable) horticulture, ornamental, environment, landscape, forestry and restoration supply chains.
Plant biosecurity is very important and ‘high’ on the Minister’s agenda. Biosecurity also rates as the most important area to be addressed for the nursery industry and this is evidenced primarily through the recently renewed and long running levy funded National Nursery Industry Biosecurity Program managed by John McDonald. To underpin the industry’s biosecurity credentials, GIA is looking to establish a National Nursery Business Register and the Minister indicated his support. The primary aim of the Nursery Register will be to have all production nurseries across the country identified, have them included on the register and then develop a ‘track and trace’ system for all nursery stock movements.
Glenn and Peter also advised the Minister that the industry is having various challenges and issues with the importation of nursery stock (tissue culture, budwood, cuttings and seed) and other inputs such as growing media substrates. Peter and John have made a number of representations to the Department of Agriculture on quarantine and importing processes. While there is some short-term action, the issues continue to arise with new concerns raised recently on plant material and seed importations.
In the recent budget announcement were details of a ‘Proof of Concept Trials’ for importing businesses. The Department is building and trialling new industry arrangements to reduce red tape and biosecurity regulatory costs for importers and agricultural businesses where it is safe to do so. Up to 3 pilots, co-designed with industry, to test end-to-end management of biosecurity risks across border supply chains. John McDonald has submitted a pilot concept for ‘co-regulation trial’ with industry but has been advised the trial is for individual businesses to establish the criteria and not industry-based programs at this stage. GIA representatives will work with the Minister’s advisors and Department of Agriculture representatives to hopefully establish a trial for the nursery industry.
Peter advised the Minister that GIA is working with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) on minor use permit (MUP) applications for the nursery industry. There are a number of issues with new applications and maintenance process for MUPs, in particular for multi-active permits, and John is working to address and streamline this with the aim to maximise MUPs available and minimising costs.
Peter advised that GIA works closely with Hort Innovation on the development and delivery of a number of levy funded research and development (R&D) and marketing programs. In particular the biosecurity, statistics, careers and communications programs.
Finally, Glenn offered the opportunity for Minister Littleproud to visit GIA members businesses when travelling around the country. The Minister welcomed the chance if and when time and travel permits. He asked where are the best places to visit and Glenn indicated anywhere across the country given the geographical diversity of the industry.
The meeting was reasonably brief but very productive in re-engaging with the Minister and keeping the nursery industry high on his agenda.