AUSTRALIAN companies are being left behind by foreign competitors in the rush to acquire domestic agricultural infrastructure, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told south-west farmers yesterday.
The National Party leader gave the keynote speech at the Sungold Field Days luncheon and promoted the federal government’s plan to stimulate growth in regional areas.
He said Warrnambool Cheese and Butter’s (WCB) acquisition last month was a shot in the arm for Australian agriculture, with farmers nationwide watching with interest.
“We’re standing in the shadow of the WCB factory. Who would have thought only a few years ago that this factory would be the centre of the agri-business world?” Mr Truss said.
“It shows that foreign businesses are interested in Australian agriculture.
‘‘They see value in our dairy production and know our location close to Asia is of strategic importance to build their business.”
Mr Truss last spoke at the 2001 Sungold Field Days when he served as federal agriculture minister.
“Times have changed,” he said.
“As a new government, we stand to confront the challenges we’ve inherited from the previous Labor government and seek out new investment opportunities for Australia.
“Australian businesses need to acknowledge what many foreign companies, major foreign companies already know — that our agricultural businesses and infrastructure are worth investing in.”
Country Alliance spokesman Garry Kerr said Mr Truss and the National Party were “just Liberal MPs wearing green-and-gold badges instead of blue”.
The minor party ran a Field Days stall this week and is running Mr Kerr in the upper house at the November state election.
“People were walking around the Field Days saying ‘Warren who?” and he’s meant to be the deputy prime minister,” Mr Kerr said yesterday.
“Warren Truss is much like the blokes running for the National Party at a state level.
“They enjoy sauntering off to Melbourne for meetings but they only go to a farm when they need to be re-elected, then they’re back in the city as quick as a flash.”