15 June 2021
Commonwealth, state and territory Agriculture Ministers met virtually on 15 June 2021 to progress the work program for the Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting. The meeting was chaired by the Hon David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management.
COVID-19 response and recovery
Ministers noted that agriculture has been a pillar of strength for the Australian economy since the COVID-19 pandemic began, given its strong performance and the growth in the sector in 2020.
Ministers discussed ongoing efforts to support COVID-19 response and recovery, particularly the stocktake of workforce measures being implemented to address labour shortages in the agriculture sector. Ministers discussed the continued importance of facilitating the entry of overseas agricultural workers, and acknowledged the significant work of the Commonwealth, states and territories to deliver this. The Commonwealth minister, at the request of state and territory ministers, confirmed that the Pacific labour mobility initiative review would explore options to streamline the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme. The review is currently underway.
Coordinated workplan for climate change
Ministers recognised that the agriculture sector faces ongoing challenges arising from climate change and has a key role to play in the broader climate solution. The Victorian Minister for Agriculture presented an implementation plan for a coordinated national approach to agriculture and climate change developed by all jurisdictions. Ministers agreed in-principle to the implementation plan, with final details to be addressed out-of-session to ensure this work can be expedited.
Implementation of the National Drought Agreement
Ministers considered matters relating to drought, including the new National Recovery and Resilience Agency and its collaboration with states and territories. Ministers noted the status of the National Drought Agreement annual report, which is on track for completion by 30 June 2021.
Actions to strengthen key biosecurity systems
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to biosecurity to protect Australia’s agriculture industries and environment. Ministers agreed that biosecurity threats pose a key risk to Australia and there is need to evolve biosecurity approaches to address changing risks. Ministers welcomed the $400 million in Commonwealth support for biosecurity announced in the 2021–22 Federal Budget. Ministers agreed to develop a National Biosecurity Strategy and to continue to engage to strengthen the national biosecurity system. Ministers also agreed on the importance of livestock traceability and the need for collective leadership in taking steps to enhance existing arrangements. Ministers agreed, to this end, to share experiences and lessons learned.
Ministers expressed a preference to meet face-to-face before the end of 2021 to continue work on the above priorities, noting the ongoing challenges to interstate movement posed by COVID-19.