Address to the Global Food Forum

Melbourne VIC

Thanks to Michelle Gunn for the introduction and the invitation to address the Global Food Forum. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

I’d like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.

I would also like to pay my respects to any First Nations people with us today. It’s great to be here today with representatives of such an important industry – one that supports both the daily wellbeing of all Australians and, our nation’s economic prosperity.  

Australia produces enough food to feed our own nation three times over. We are indeed a food-secure and fortunate country. But it’s not luck that Australia is the envy of the world when it comes to our reputation for safe and transparent food production. 

This reputation has been built on the back of hard-working Australians who have pioneered scientific advances, embraced advanced farming techniques, develop world-class food and beverage manufacture, to what's brought us all here today. And that's what continues to make the industry represented by people here in this room one of Australia's most dynamic. An industry that the Albanese government is backing. 

The last 40 odd years have seen massive technological advances that have dramatically lifted crop yields and increased food availability. Those technological advances driven by some of the greatest scientific minds on the planet right here in this country. Our best researchers, those out on the land, in the factories, pioneering new techniques. Take one example, Future Feed, established by CSIRO, holds a global IP for the use of seaweed as a livestock feed ingredient that's been shown to lower methane emissions by 80% or more, not a small amount and is a big deal when we're looking at the impact of emissions on climate change. 

Australian companies, start-ups developing exciting new food products and processes to cater to changing domestic and global consumer preferences. Last week I visited Noumi Foods in Western Sydney. They're at the forefront of plant-based beverage sector or nutritionals, developing products Australians want. High in sustainability, nutritious, innovative. Their Milk Lab products, which many of you may be familiar with when you get your cup of coffee in the morning. And indeed, a great example of how Australian companies evolving to meet challenges of our time. 

It's the sort of companies we have in mind when we look at what support we as a government can give to the food manufacturing sector. And a hallmark of our new government is that we want Australia to be a country that makes more things. We want a country that adds value to our natural resources, provides good, secure jobs, in short, a country that believes in and supports our manufacturing capability. So, what are we standing up? Our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, one of the biggest industry policy offerings in peacetime. 

When it's established that fund will provide crucial growth capital, loans, guarantees, equity across seven national priority areas, one of which is value adding in agriculture, forestry, fishery sector. 500 million targeted to support within that fund, these sectors and food and fibre, and a billion set aside to support advanced manufacturing development, where I expect many food manufacturing businesses to apply. 

We're also standing up as a result of the Budget to spark the turning of the transformation of new ideas into new businesses, our Industry Growth Programme. And so whether it's backing scientific research, supporting manufacturing, we as a government are very focussed on ensuring that this sector moves to even greater heights, because everyone in the room knows our global food systems face very profound challenges. 

We live in a time of international conflict and tension, energy shortages, climate change, impacting on global food supply chains. I'm well aware of the impact of natural disasters, as many of us in the community are. And other factors such as input costs, labour shortages that are having a broad ranging impact on what you do. 

It's why getting Australia's food systems right is so important, not just today, but obviously in the future. So, it is my pleasure to give you a sense of a sneak peek of some upcoming work that our National Science Agency, the CSIRO, has been working on and will release shortly. 

In a couple of weeks, they will release a vision for the future of Australia's food system titled Reshaping Australian Food Systems and it will have a roadmap in it identifying how Australia can remain a world leader in the production of sustainable, innovative, nutritious food in the years ahead. So, for example, enabling equitable access to healthy food and so that we can become a healthier nation. Creating a circular food system. And I know a lot of you are thinking about circular economy issues where we can think smarter, reduce waste and also transform values or transform the valueless into high value products. 

Developing novel technologies, precision agriculture, new livestock feed supplements, all working to reduce emissions, improve the climate impact of what is being done by reducing costs. Improving productivity for manufacturers through implementing machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics. Diversifying Australia's food supply chains to ensure they're flexible and able to withstand external and internal shocks. 

For example, strengthening Australia's domestic capabilities can attract and retain skilled workers to the sector to keep pace with the growing adoption of sophisticated technologies. Again, automation robotics, looking at what is being done within our AgTech sector and a lot of Australians are doing very smart things to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity of agriculture in this country and also the future strategic direction of the sector, including advanced manufacturing and food science. So, we certainly hope that the CSIRO's new roadmap will provide a signal to industry on where future opportunities lie. 

No country has got a greater reputation or a higher reputation for producing premium, safe, sustainable food than our country and we need to build on that. We can't sit on our hands or rest on laurels. We have to keep investing in innovation and building resilient food systems well into the future. Responding to changing consumer trends, some of which Anthony highlighted in his remarks, the need to produce food more sustainably. 

Researchers developing new products and processes, tackling this huge issue of food waste. Food Bank estimating we probably waste 8 million tonnes of food in this country, a year, of which 70 per cent still edible. Finding new ways to work together on that, hugely important. We've got smart people in this country, great businesses who are open to new opportunities, big problem solvers. And I love the way, when I work with industry, hearing, the way in which we have surprised others who don't expect Australia to come up with solutions to really difficult challenges and problems. 

This is the stuff that we need to build at scale. That's why we're committed as a government working with business also in our research sector to be able to nurture and grow this ecosystem and take value add to the next level. In this way, we will broaden manufacturing capability, boost secure work, especially in our regional areas, and grow our export base and feed the rest of the world. Thank you very much for the chance to be with you all here this morning.