Interview with ABC Tas Country Hour - Tasmanian Fruit and Veg Taskforce

TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK

INTERVIEW WITH TONY BRISCOE ON ABC TAS COUNTRY HOUR

OCTOBER 1, 2014

Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetable Industry Taskforce

E&OE.......................................................................................................

PRESENTER: The Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetable Taskforce final report has been released just a short time ago in Canberra, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, joins me on the Tasmanian Country Hour to discuss the recommendations of the report. Thanks for your time Senator.

COLBECK: Nice to be here, thank you.

PRESENTER: It's a 109 page report, very comprehensive and done in pretty quick time.

COLBECK: Yes it was and the first thing I'd like to do is acknowledge the taskforce members, Dr Michele Allan the chair, and the others from the fruit and vegetable industry in Tasmania who really put a lot of effort into this. The members put their own business perspectives aside to come up with a report that they saw as providing for the future of the fruit and veg industry in Tasmania.

I must stress this is their report; it's not something that we've altered or done anything with. This is their report and their view on where we should go. The credentials of the people around the table I think were outstanding and I think they've done a great job.

PRESENTER: Now, the main finding is that there have been many reviews and reports in the past, but implementation of recommendations has been very patchy.

COLBECK: I think very early in the discussions of the committee it became very evident there was a determination that this not be another report that sits on the table and doesn't go anywhere. So the recommendations that flowed from that initial conversation were that we need to make sure there is a mechanism to ensure our objectives have a way to be met. So you've got a very ambition target of exporting $750 million worth of produce off the island by 2020. Questions such as how do we get there and how do we do that were a large part of the conversation.

PRESENTER: It is a lofty ambition. The industry is now worth around $350 million and as you say the plan is to grow that to $750 million by 2020. Is it like the quote from the movie The Castle, 'tell them they're dreaming'?

COLBECK: Look, I don't think so. I think we're on the cusp of some real opportunity in Tasmania. There has been significant investment made already in irrigation development and there is a lot of discussion about around that and the conversation continues up here, in fact I think Barnaby mentioned it at our press conference.

You've got a number of industries that have a real opportunity to grow and I was talking to Costas last night at a function and they think the north of Tasmania is one of the best places in the world to grow berries. So the development of types of agriculture and horticulture that we actually haven't seen in the past, or the growth of protected horticulture for example, I think there is real opportunity to pursue that in Tasmania. We can then start seeking out some of the real value markets that we're talking about as the market opportunities grow.

PRESENTER: Senator Richard Colbeck, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture is our guest on the Tasmanian Country Hour looking at the final report of the Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetable Taskforce. Senator, the report also talks about a lack of leadership and a lack of confidence for farmers to invest in the fruit and vegetable industries. How do you overcome that?

COLBECK: Well that was a really interesting conversation. Even within the committee there were some people who I consider having very successful businesses, that hadn't considered exporting. So there is some leadership required and some work that needs to be done to give a better understanding about what the opportunities might be around export.

I think you can probably see that starting to occur already and conversations within the taskforce have facilitated some of the work looking at exporting and starting to consider going down that path. But also, some work that hasn't been finalised out of the department, but the preliminary work was presented to the committee about where there are market opportunities and where we might start with exporting instead of going for some of the more difficult markets. It was very valuable to be part of the conversation and once that information is available more broadly to the agricultural community I think that will open people's eyes as to what the opportunities might be out there. There were certainly some really good discussions around how we as a community in Tasmania open people's eyes and minds to the opportunity of exporting.

PRESENTER: So one of the recommendations is for a Tasmanian Horticulture Market Growth Project to be established, what will that actually do?

COLBECK: Well that's about actually outing all of this into action. It's about putting into a reference group people with the skills to do that work and then facilitating people into the export market and also providing some information around marketing opportunities or export opportunities.

So one of the things we did do in this process was define export as anything off the island. So it's growth of Tasmanian product in the Australian market but also importantly into the export markets, and we all understand the opportunities that are starting to develop, particularly in South-East Asia.

PRESENTER: And where will this report go now?

COLBECK: This report now goes to the Prime Minister's Economic Council which meets in a couple of weeks' time. There is already some work being done around trying to ensure there is a resource available for the recommendations to do their work so it actually hasn't stopped. People that have been sitting around the table have been looking quire broadly at actually how do we make this work.

The thing that impressed me was that the members of the taskforce have become so invested in the process that they want to continue. They're motivated to say how can we actually make this happen and they want to be reported back to, even though the taskforce has ceased to formally exist, but they're really invested in the process and I think the enthusiasm that was developed through the process was one of the other things that really struck me as coming out of the taskforce itself.

PRESENTER: Senator Colbeck, thanks for your time.

COLBECK: Thanks very much Tony.

PRESENTER: Senator Richard Colbeck, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, on the final report of the Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetable Taskforce. You can access that report online at the DAFF website.

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