NSW Labor to throw more work at Agriculture Commissioner
The NSW Opposition has vowed an expanded role for the state's Agriculture Commissioner, committing to give the Commissioner increased powers and responsibilities amid the Upper Hunter by-election campaign.
The Berejiklian Coalition government created the role in 2020 and appointed former head of the federal department of agriculture and water, Daryl Quinlivan, to the role in August.
However, the Opposition says Mr Quinlivan has been hamstrung in supporting farmers.
Labor shadow minister for regional industries, Jenny Aitchison and member for Maitland in northern NSW told Flow News 24’s Rikki Lambert:
“We have a part-time agriculture commissioner, who can work a maximum of 150 days a year, and can’t actually advocate on behalf of farmers.
Ms Aitchison also said getting in contact with the Agriculture Commissioner was difficult, claiming Mr Quinlivan doesn’t even have his own phone line. She also asserted that queries to the Commissioner drew a response from the Minister's office, putting the Commissioner's independence in jeopardy.
The Opposition also announced last week in the Upper Hunter that they would create a Dairy and Fresh Food commissioner independent of government, unlike the Dairy and Fresh Milk commissioner the Coalition government created.
Ms Aitchison stated:
“There was no transparency about the way the position was appointed...these positions were appointed (by the government) a year, year and a half after the election, not immediately as was promised.”
Labor has made the commitments in a pitch to farming voters in the Upper Hunter, even though its more likely position to deliver on those commitments would be if it won government at the 25 March 2023 state election.
However, the Berejiklian government is teetering on the edge of losing its working majority to form government, due to government MPs sitting on the crossbench while under investigation by the NSW ICAC. With the local National Party MP incumbent resigning in ignominious circumstances, parties like Labor, the Shooters Fishers & Farmers and One Nation parties are pitching for rural voters to try and capture a seat in Nationals heartland.
Ms Aitchison said the Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner would bring a more strategic approach to the needs of those industries, claiming:
“The reality is that NSW is one of only two states that have fresh milk as a major part of its agricultural commodities.
Across the two Commissioner roles, Labor said it would help bring a stronger focus, planning and co-ordination on the role of the sectors in the NSW economy:
“We need to have an export plan for our food and fibre that goes through and can actually diversify our international market.
“We need someone that is strongly independent of government.”
The NSW government was contacted for comment on Monday and had not responded at the time of publication.