Horticulture Industry

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (15:27): I rise today to speak about the importance of South Australia's horticultural industry. At the moment, South Australia is currently hosting Australia's biggest ever horticultural conference. It is called Hort Connections 2017. It is just down the road that 2,400 international, interstate and local delegates are converging on Adelaide to attend this conference.

I was at the opening of the conference—in fact, it was a trade show—on Monday night with my colleague and good friend, Senator Anne Ruston, in her capacity as Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water, and the shadow minister for trade and investment, Mr Tim Whetstone. This morning, I was at the SA Produce Market at Pooraka for a tour and a briefing on the local industry as part of the conference and tonight I will be attending one of the concluding sessions. I have been at the conference meeting delegates and helping businesses and potential trade export partners connect.

This conference represents a great opportunity for South Australia and we should be doing everything we can to ensure our local industry gets the most out of this opportunity. Wherever I can, I will support this very important industry and our primary industries more broadly. The horticulture industry is vitally important to South Australia's economy. Here are just a few facts:

South Australia's horticultural industry is comprised of over 45 different significant horticultural commodities;

it has a farmgate industry that is worth some $920 million;

there are around 3,500 horticulture businesses in South Australia and these businesses employ some 13,500 permanent staff and an additional 24,000 seasonal staff; and

the industry contributes more than $3.2 billion to the South Australian economy in gross food revenue.

I believe this industry has so much more potential for growth. We must get programs, such as the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme, right. We must ensure that pest-free areas are successfully established so South Australian producers are able to export their products more easily and more cost-effectively. That is another reason why the state Liberal's Globe Link policy is so important. We want to help this industry grow and generate more produce, economic activity and jobs for the South Australian economy. However, what we do not want to see is the domestic horticultural market saturated to a point where premium produce is dumped onto the market, forcing smaller growers out of business and costing jobs.

The state Liberals are determined to drive exports. At the moment, only around 10 to 15 per cent of horticultural produce Australia-wide is exported. Globe Link will give South Australian growers a significant advantage over growers in other states, enabling them to get their fresh premium produce on the supermarket shelves and in restaurants overseas within 24 hours. That is where we will see the horticultural industry expand in South Australia. We need to open up these lucrative export markets, which have an unbridled demand for South Australia's premium produce.

The Labor government likes to talk about South Australia's premium food and wine at length but, when push comes to shove, they are not there. They are absent. Make no mistake: ministers Brock and Bignell will be there to cut a ribbon at a moment's notice, but when it comes to doing the hard yards, putting their money where their mouth is, they are nowhere to be seen. It was woefully disappointing to see that not one cabinet minister could find the time to come to the opening of the biggest horticultural conference ever held in Australia, even though it was only two doors down the road from Parliament House.

What kind of message does this send to the industry? I thought this industry was a priority for the state Labor government. Evidently not. It is widely reported that minister Bignell much prefers his tourism portfolio to his responsibilities to the agriculture industry. We have seen all the headlines: 'Tourism minister Leon Bignell jets off again', 'Tourism minister Bignell racks up $300,000 in travel expenses', 'Tourism minister Bignell spends $100 on a bottle of Argentinian wine'.

Then there is minister Brock, the Minister for Regional Development. This is a minister who announced one of his regional development grants, had a press conference to cut the ribbon and get his token slap on the back, only to have the grant handed back because the conditions imposed were too onerous to comply with. This did not seem to bother the minister though. He left the press release on this website for over 12 months. He never wants to let the truth get in the way of a good PR story.

If I am fortunate enough to be the minister for primary industries after March next year, I assure you, Mr Acting President, and the industry that I will not be an absent minister, that I will work harder and deliver more than the two current ministers put together.

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