National Farmers' Federation

Coastal shipping reform is good for the economy: NFF

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says legislative reform to coastal shipping rules outlined by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Warren Truss, in a speech from Sydney today, will be good for farmers and good for the Australian economy.
NFF President Brent Finlay said that reform is critical to agricultural competitiveness and growth.
“Affordable shipping is an important issue for Australian farmers. All commercial produce is transported from the farm gate to market and approximately two-thirds of all Australian produce is exported, either by air or by sea.
“The current regulations are restrictive. Farmers and suppliers don’t have the right to choose who carries their goods around the coast, so they can’t negotiate a fair price for the task.
“They might reach agreement with one shipping company, only to find that their contract has been taken over by some other company who is now demanding a higher price.
“The simple fact is that it is easier and cheaper for farmers to send goods by road or rail. Once they reach agreement on terms, farmers know who will deliver their goods, and at what price. They can choose who they deal with, which means greater business flexibility.
“Wage costs are also an issue. Shipping industry wages just don’t compare to those in road and rail. The average Melbourne truck driver earns $22 per hour; train drivers do slightly better on average, at $30 per hour, while the average wage for a seafarer is more than double that.
“Australian agriculture faces significant opportunity, but we need strong leadership and policy settings that promote growth,” Mr Finlay said.
“Australia has a reputation as a safe, reliable and sustainable provider of quality food and fibre. But we also have an economy where prices are high in comparison to other parts of the world. To compete with overseas markets, we need efficient and effective freight systems.
“The NFF welcomes the Deputy Prime Minister’s commitment to introduce legislation in the Winter sittings. This is important economic reform, aimed at lifting Australia’s competitiveness and improving the profitability of the agriculture sector,” Mr Finlay said.

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