2018 National Congress – Day 1
Address by NFF President, Fiona Simson
– Check against delivery –
What an honour it is to address my first National Congress as NFF President.
I would like to start by welcoming the farmers who have travelled to be with us today.
Especially for those farmers who are managing drought, I know it is a very difficult time to be away from home.
I know the the logistical and financial sacrifices our farmers have made to be here with us in Canberra and I thank you for that.
I hope the rain of the last week has reached you and provided some respite. Even if only a boost for the psyche.
We promise a valuable and stimulating two days.
May I also acknowledge the attendance of:
– The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Water Resources, Daryl Quinlivan.
– NFF CEO Tony Mahar.
– My fellow NFF Directors.
– The Presidents and CEOs of NFF’s Member organisations.
– Ladies and gentlemen.
This November marks my second year as NFF President.
I look back at my first week on the job and my infamous ‘meeting’ with then Senator, Jacqui Lambie and wonder ‘did I know what I was getting myself in for?’
To be honest, though, there has not been much time for reflection!
Although, sadly in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history, there also hasn’t been many opportunities to get my gumboots on.
But plenty of opportunity to get stuck in, boots and all.
Agriculture, and the issues that matter most to our industry, have rarely been out of the headlines.
And a bit like the seasons on either side of the nation – the headlines have been, at times, poles apart.
There have been more than a few challenges but there have also been clear and meaningful wins.
One thing that has remained consistent is the instability in Federal political leadership.
In fact, political leadership instability has become the new norm.
But, the NFF, has done what farmers do best, and adapted.
We have remained focussed on our reason for being: to be the voice of Australian farmers. It really is that simple.
To have this voice heard and valued, we’ve forged highly productive relationships with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Agriculture and Water Minister, David Littleproud and their cabinet colleagues.
I was also personally grateful for the interest and time invested by our former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the issues of priority to the farm sector.
Particularly his response to drought and our vision for $100 billion sector by 2030.
We also continue to brief members of the Opposition, minor parties and cross-benchers on the important issues for our sector and ask for their support in advancing them.
Indeed, the NFF’s vision for a $100 billion farm sector has bi-partisan support.
We’re pleased to welcome Shadow Minster for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon to Day 2 of Congress.
Throughout the year, the NFF has been fearless in giving voice to agriculture’s role in key national policy debates such as energy, water and trade liberalisation.
We’ve been front and centre in the national debate to bring down energy costs for farmers via the development of a national energy policy framework.
I was proud to accompany Prime Minister Morrison to Jakarta recently for the signing of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement.
This FTA will deliver enhanced access for grains, horticulture, dairy, live cattle, beef, sheepmeat, sugar and honey.
We also continued to back the CPTPP or TPP-11. The enabling legislation for which, was introduced into the Senate this week.
We successfully stemmed a tide of politics and partisanship that threatened to unravel the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
And we ensured agriculture’s needs were singled out in a review of Federal environmental laws.
I was humbled to rally with our Queensland members, on the back of a Landcruiser, at Parliament House, Brisbane to fight for fair native vegetation laws.
There are fewer more important issues than standing up for our right to farm!
With the able support of our members, the NFF has also led the charge to see road freight regulations harmonised and red tape cut.
The NFF has put agriculture’s crippling labour shortage on the national agenda by proposing an agricultural-specific visa.
Whether it is an ag visa or meaningful (and I stress meaningful) changes to existing visa programmes, we won’t rest until agriculture’s labour shortages are fixed.
Our industry’s growth depends on it.
The NFF also represented the interests of horticulture businesses at the Fair Work Commission’s review of the Horticulture Award and in the legal proceedings in relation to piece rate provisions.
The NFF’s advocacy for more regional phone towers has paid off with the Government committing to a fourth round of the mobile blackspots programme.
And, we really are nothing without the well-being of our farmers and families, that’s why we remain committed to meaningful improvements to quad bike safety.
The NFF was pleased that one of PM Morrison’s first actions as PM was to fly to drought affected Queensland. We have been consulted by the Prime Minister since, on the best approach to supporting farmers to manage drought.
Our message is clear: we need an overarching national drought strategy that addresses preparedness, management during drought and recovery.
The NFF is committed to ensuring that the trust between the community and farmers continues to be strong.
Never before have consumers been more interested in the origin of their food and fibre.
Whether its ag-vet chemical, animal welfare, genetically modified technology, live export, water or the treatment of workers, we must get better at telling our story.
Through initiatives such as National Agriculture Day, we’re ensuring all Australians are better connected to farming and better informed of the sustainable and responsible practices of Australian farming.
We look forward to launching Ag Day 2018 a little later this morning!
This year, as many of you will know, the focus for the NFF in 2018, has been to put in place a Roadmap that will see the farm sector reach its potential.
Specifically, we have a vision for farm gate output to reach $100 billion by 2030 – up from $63 billion in 2016-2017.
Throughout the year, with our partner Telstra, we criss-crossed the country to tap into the skills and expertise of agriculture’s best and brightest on how we might achieve this target.
The findings of this consultation form the basis of our 2030 Roadmap – our plan for $100 billion.
We look forward to officially introducing the 2030 Roadmap, a little later today.
To realise its true prosperity agriculture needs smart leaders.
This year NFF’s 2030 Leaders Program put eight switched-on men and women through an intensive professional development program.
These impressive people will be the future faces of our industry and that fills me with confidence. I’m pleased to say they are here with us today.
A source of immense pride for me in 2018 was the NFF’s initiative to see more women represented in the senior leadership ranks of agriculture.
More than 120 women applied to take part our Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Programme.
The NFF, is joined by our members, Government and leading agribusiness in pledging to make meaningful change towards increased gender diversity.
Tomorrow morning, our eight aspiring leaders will graduate from the program.
These ladies will establish an alumni of leadership-ready women with skills and a passion for agriculture.
By far the most important and rewarding part of the Presidency role is meeting with the farmers for which I serve.
During the year, I had the opportunity to travel to many diverse agricultural regions of Australia including the Ord Region of northern Western Australia and to the north of Tasmania (among many other regions).
There I met with farmers across an impressive array of industries.
In Kununurra farmers like citrus growers Craig and Lockie Dobson, seed producer (and rum distiller) Kalyn Fletcher and Carlton Hill station Managers Lisa Walker and Glen Booker.
In Launceston I took in the berry growing operation of Simon and Robin Dornaud and the mixed cropping and livestock business of Angus Lyne.
It is the opportunity to represent and make a difference for these farmers that is the real privilege of my role.
And, it is a responsibility I don’t take lightly.
Next year, the National Farmers’ Federation will celebrate 40 years.
Many, many things have changed during the past 39 years, globally, nationally and certainly at a farm level.
One thing that hasn’t changed, or if anything, has grown, is the relevance and effectiveness of the NFF.
This is evidenced in part, I believe by the crowd in front of me today and the support we have received for this, our flagship event.
I’m extremely proud that the NFF was recently rated as the third most ethical member association in the 2018 Governance Institute Ethics Index.
But, the NFF is nothing but for our members.
I’d like to thank our members who continue to back the NFF and I, to be the voice of Australian farmers.
To the many individuals who give up time away from their businesses and families to do the work needed on our committees and at a Board level, I thank you.
During November 2018, we farewelled three valued Board members – Les Gordon (Vice President) Mark Horan and Grant Maudsley.
I thank Les, Mark and Grant for their contribution, I know they won’t be strangers to the NFF Family. I’d also like to thank the 2018 NFF Board for their continued commitment.
I acknowledge the support of our corporate partners – whose faith in, and role in rural Australia, is very much appreciated.
These partners include Coles, Telstra, WFI, PrimeSuper & Rabobank.
Thank you also to our Congress partners, gold supporters of which include: Coles, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, KPMG, PrimeSuper, Rabobank, Telstra and Visy.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is almost all from me.
I sincerely want to thank each and everyone one of you, for your continuing support for the NFF and for our great farm sector.
You are in for a real treat over the next two days, as we unpack the theme DIVERSIFY!
It’s one of those great themes – that has enabled an all-encompassing program!
So, sit back and enjoy.
2018 National Congress – Day 1