AGRIBUSINESS ON THE FRONT LINE
28 August 2014, Written by Laura Daquino
AGRICULTURE is a signature Australian landscape that is developing, and according to legal and industry experts, must be treated accordingly to continue producing results.
It has long been regarded as a central driver of the Australian economy, and is tipped for accelerated growth as global food demand increases in addition to greater availability of finance.
According to Business Council of Australia’s (BCA) recent paper Building Australia’s Comparative Advantages, agribusiness is in fact the only sector that Australia has historically been strongly competitive on a global scale.
“Research undertaken by McKinsey & Company provides a baseline perspective of Australia’s international competitiveness by sector, to reveal that Australia was strongly competitive in only one sector – agriculture,” says BCA president Catherine Livingstone (pictured below).
“It found that we had a substantial comparative advantage in other sectors including mining and natural gas, tourism and food manufacturing, highly differentiated manufacturing, and international education, although with flat or diminishing competitiveness.”
Holding Redlich is one Brisbane law firm which understands the importance of agriculture to the state and national economy.
It has such grown its agriculture team accordingly to eight practitioners in Brisbane, appropriate to the Newman government’s 30-year plan of cementing agriculture as one of four economic pillars, and has sizable teams in Sydney and Melbourne too.
Adding to this, Holding Redlich has also recently announced a partnership with Future Farmers Network (FFN).
The partnership will assist young farmers and agribusiness professionals by providing them with strategic legal advice on topics such as rural property, water rights and issues, planning and environmental law, corporate and family restructuring, vegetation management and insurance.
Holding Redlich partner and head of the firm’s national agribusiness practice Brian Healey (pictured left) says the firm is proud to be helping next generation agribusiness professionals navigate an increasing number of challenges.
“It is a pretty regulated sector as is and the industry is being restructured in order to maximise profits,” says Healey, who developed a passion for agribusiness following a professional stint in Goondiwindi.
“We are seeing a new wave of foreign investment and people on the land really need to consider succession planning, which FFN members have communicated as a problematic issue.
“This generation is very bright, well-educated and it is clear they will take agribusiness to a level never seen before with the right direction.”
Direction is something which BCA president Catherine Livingstone believes needs to be invested in.
To stress the importance of agriculture to Australia’s livelihood, Livingstone singled it out and drew a comparison to the automotive industry, a golden sector of the economy until the 1980s.
“Policymakers must ask the right questions, for the right reasons, at the right time,” says Livingstone.
“If we had of asked the right questions and acted purposefully as a consequence in the 1980s with the automotive industry, we may have seen companies transition into niche suppliers participating in global supply chains, rather than having to close down.
“If we look forward, in agriculture, we should be asking ourselves whether we could do better by differentiating our niche, high value-added products, and tapping into emerging market demand via global supply chains.”
Agriculture is “the story of squandered potential” – as stated by Livingstone – a story which legal practitioners are perhaps most capable of all at helping rewrite.