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Research Reports

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Does Australia Need a National Policy to Preserve Agricultural Land

 Does Australia need a national policy to preserve agricultural land? This study provides a comprehensive review of what is currently known about the amount and location of Australian agricultural land, the rate of land use change occurring, and how governments make decisions both in Australia and internationally. Australia has the sixth largest land area and the lowest population density of almost any nation on earth, so the question of whether or not there will be sufficient good quality land available for agriculture in the future has not been a high priority issue for most of the past two hundred years.However, an increasing number of people are starting to express concerns that Australia is being too reckless with its best agricultural land, and future generations might regret decisions that are currently being made about the future use of that land. With urban, mining, CSG and environmental demands taking more and more land, and foreign investors also purchasing significant areas, it is legitimate to ask whether Australia can realistically plan to become the future "food bowl of Asia. Agriculture productivity is directly related to the quality of a soil and prevailing climatic conditions, and while Australia appears to have plenty of land, in reality only about 3% is actually suitable for cropping, and even less of this is considered to be prime agricultural land. Many of the current disputes about future land use are actually concentrated in specific areas considered to be some of the best agricultural land. This research finds that Australia currently lacks a consistent and comprehensive understanding of where this land is located, or how much of it is being diverted from agriculture each year. 'This report is a valuable review and analysis of the current extent of agricultural land use, and land use change. It also provides a benchmark for understanding how land use and land use change is currently monitored at the state and national level, and how these levels of government could better work together to clarify these questions.

Full report, pp. 1-49 (54 pages), May 2012
Australian Farm Institute
Authors: Budge, T, Butt, A, Chersterfield, M, Kennedy, M, Buxton, M,Tremain, D
ISBN 978-1-921808-17-3 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-921808-16-6 (Web) 



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Essential Services in Urban and Regional Australia – a Quantitative Comparison

Over recent decades the Australian economy has largely been deregulated, and governments have progressively reduced direct involvement in the provision of a wide range of services to the community. The trend towards reduced direct government involvement in service delivery commenced during the 1980s, and was accelerated by the National Competition Policy agreement of 1994. Over the past two decades, the direct involvement of governments in the provision of services including telecommunications, public transport, some postal services, education, health and medicine, transport infrastructure and a range of health-related services has been substantially reduced.

One unresolved aspect of these changes is the extent to which governments have an obligation to provide a core set of essential services to all taxpayers, irrespective of their place of residence. This was an issue that remained contentious during the sometimes intense political debates over National Competition Policy, and which regularly resurfaces in debates about the quality of telecommunication, health and education services in rural and regional Australia.

A major weakness in the debates about this issue has been the lack of objective data that enables essential service accessibility to be compared between locations, and over time. The research project reported here has addressed this by utilising census and other data to develop objective measures of essential service accessibility.

The intent in developing this data is not to advance arguments that all Australians should have absolutely equal access to all essential services, but rather to provide a mechanism to enable more objective decision-making to occur. This should assist in ensuring that residents of regional and rural areas maintain equitable access to essential services; that governments innovate to find better ways to efficiently provide essential services to all residents; and that governments consider alternative policy measures in the event that essential services cannot be made universally available.

Newly released research has for the first time quantified the extra costs faced by Australia’s non-metropolitan residents in accessing essential Government services, and highlighted the need to find better ways to deliver essential services in regional Australia.

The research, commissioned by the Australian Farm Institute and carried out by the National Institute of Industry and Economic Research (NIEIR), used census and other objective data to calculate the costs faced by all Australian residents in accessing essential services such as doctors, hospitals, schools, TAFE colleges and universities. These costs were then compared between metropolitan, urban and rural residents.

Full Report

November  2009, pp. 1 - 81 (81 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Author: National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-5-2 (Print)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-6-9 (Web)


FPJ0802 Broadbent Jennifer, Pritchard Bill, Is farmland up for grabs, patterns of land ownership in rural NSW

Broadbent Jennifer, Pritchard Bill, Is farmland up for grabs? Patterns of land ownership in rural NSW, Farm Policy Journal, Vol 8, Number 2, Winter 2011, Foreign investment in Australian agriculture: myths and realities, Australian Farm Institute, pp 11-19
ISSN 1449-8812

Prompted by long-range forecasts of higher prices for agricultural commodities, the direct ownership of productive agricultural lands have come under the watchful eye of international investors and sovereign wealth funds as a strategically important, long-term asset class. Although this newfound interest in agricultural land acquisitions has been played out mainly in the developing world, its reverberations have been felt in Australia. This has prompted considerable community and political debate, which has subsequently highlighted the paucity of authoritative information on the scale and nature of foreign ownership in Australian farmland. Focusing on empirical data from NSW, this article sets out a systematic response to community concerns over changing ownership patterns in Australian farming. First, it contextualises this issue by providing a stocktake of rural land ownership in New South Wales (NSW) over the period 2004–08. This analysis underlines the relatively modest extent to which rural land is owned by corporate entities in NSW. It is concluded that there is considerable diversity in the actors and objectives guiding contemporary investment in rural land, but within this milieu the so-called ‘foreign land grab’ is hardly visible, and a more sophisticated response is required to explain these occurrences. What matters is not the ownership of land per se, but the ways in which landowners utilise their land, and the bridges and connections they have with upstream and downstream participants in agrifood chains, beyond the farm gate
FDI, Foreign Investment, Agriculture, agribusiness, R&D, land ownership, rural, NSW, farm


FPJ0804 - Keogh, M - Food security, food reality and australian agriculture opportunity

Keogh, M, Food security, food reality and Australian agriculture opportunity, Farm Policy Journal, Vol8 N4, Summer 2011, pp 1-6

As recently as five years ago, food security was a term used in discussions about the food supply situation in drought stricken and impoverished developing nations, often as not run by a despotic dictator. More recently, however, food security has emerged as a major policy issue in developed nations such as Australia. Unfortunately, much of the discussion about the issue is misinformed, and some of the proposed ‘solutions’ are likely to make global food security worse, rather than better. While global food insecurity represents a significant opportunity for Australian agriculture, it will require considerable effort by industry participants to secure that opportunity. Those efforts will be more likely to succeed if Australian governments undertake policy reforms in a range of areas including agricultural innovation, agricultural trade, regulation efficiency and market transparency.


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