Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce

Debate over competition issues in agriculture green paper

RETAILERS have hit out at the inclusion of competition policy issues in the Abbott government's green paper on agriculture, which was released on Monday.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce launched the paper, which is a precursor to the government's new agriculture policies, at the National Farmers' Federation annual conference in Canberra.

The paper has proposed more dams across Queensland, including on the Fitzroy River, Burdekin Falls, Mitchell River and Urannah Dam near Collinsville.

Mr Joyce said the plan reflected the government's commitment to "maintaining family farming as the cornerstone of Australian agriculture".

But Mr Joyce, seeking feedback on the paper, has also called for more ideas, particularly on addressing trade and competition policy, which is a sore point between retailers and the farm sector.

After several years of talks, an interim voluntary code of conduct between retailers and primary producers was put in place last year.

But Mr Joyce has previously said competition policy needed to be analysed to address the imbalance of market power in the agriculture supply chain.

Australian National Retailers Association chief executive Anna McPhee said the original "issues paper" on agriculture did not call for consultation on competition issues, as the government was already reviewing those laws.

"The government's White Paper on Agricultural Competitiveness should not impede the largest review of competition policy in more than 20 years," she said.

However, NFF president Brent Finlay welcomed the focus on many of the sector's policy priorities, "including rebalancing competition policy".

"The commitment to further explore water infrastructure opportunities around Australia is an important acknowledgement that infrastructure investment, including in water, must continue to grow to promote increased capacity and development in Australia's rural and regional areas," he said.

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