Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Stone slams Japanese trade deal

Member for Murray Sharman Stone said the Federal Government had to think of the future of Australia's farmers rather than giving away their bargaining power on just ''any deal''.

TRENT HORNEMAN April 11, 2014 3:15am

Member for Murray Sharman Stone believes Australian farmers have ‘‘taken a bullet’’ after the Federal Government signed a trade agreement with Japan this week.

Dr Stone was critical of the tariff cuts for dairy and beef exports, which she said were lower than expected, as well as a total snub for the rice industry.

‘‘We have done away with our bargaining power,’’ she said.

‘‘By not having tariffs on our imports, we have no leverage.

‘‘While Labor left us well behind in the race for free trade agreements with our key competitors in our key markets, we must not let anyone think that we can be panicked into ‘any deal will do’.’’

Dr Stone said the Federal Government needed to do more to put money back into Australian farms.

She believed the power of supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, loose dumping regulations and the high cost of water were damaging farmers.

‘‘There is massive review and reform needed,’’ she said.

‘‘It is time for the Government to be forward thinking and spend the time in working, co-operating with and supporting farmers.’’

This week Dr Stone and 15 regional farmers met with Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper Task Force members in Shepparton.

Dr Stone said dairy, fruit, cereal, seed and wine producers were unanimous in their concern for the long-term viability of Australian farming.

‘‘Farmers in Australia are simply not being paid enough for their product,’’ she said.

While farmers were given a good hearing, as a group and individually, at the Shepparton meeting, Dr Stone said the Federal Government needed action.

When asked if she was confident whether any of the issues raised in the white paper would materialise, Dr Stone said:

‘‘You have to have confidence, otherwise you will never get out of bed in the morning,’’ she said.

Dr Stone said the findings from white paper discussion should be known at the end of the year.

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