Agriculture value rises, but picture mixed

The value of Australia’s agriculture industry has reached a new high of $56 billion.


The 2015-16 figure, released on Friday as part of the Agricultural Census, represents a $3.1 billion rise and was driven by an increase in livestock values.

“Beef was again the largest contributor to this rise, despite fewer animals heading to the saleyards, with strong price rises both domestically and internationally,” the Bureau of Statistics director of agriculture statistics Lauren Binns said.

The most valuable crops were wheat ($6.2 billion), fruit, nuts and grapes ($5.6 billion) and vegetables ($3.6 billion).

But there was a mixed picture, with varying weather conditions impacting production.

Winter and spring rain in parts of NSW and Queensland helped deliver bumper barley crops, up six per cent.

But a warm, dry spring in southern Australia contributed to a five per cent fall in wheat.

Avocado production reached record levels in 2015-16 up 39 per cent to 67,600 tonnes, with more than 24,000 tonnes of extra mandarins.

But apple and pear crops were impacted by hail storms in Victoria during the year.

The number of farming businesses in Australia rose one per cent to more than 85,000, with farm sizes increasing slightly as well.

Families are remaining on the land, with the average number of years those surveyed involved in farming being 35.

The total volume of water used decreased by three per cent, but the total area watered nationally rose by four per cent.

More than 100,000 farm businesses contributed to the survey with the minimum size increased from those with an average turnover of $5000 to $40,000 or more.

The ABS says it significantly reduced the survey burden on small farming operations.

UN set to adopt nuclear weapons ban treaty

Supporters describe the treaty as a historic achievement but the nuclear-armed states have dismissed the ban as unrealistic, arguing it will have no impact on reducing the global stockpile of 15,000 nuclear weapons.


Led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 countries have taken part in three weeks of negotiations on the treaty that provides for a total ban on developing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Advocates hope it will increase pressure on nuclear states to take disarmament more seriously.

“This will be a historic moment,” Costa Rica’s ambassador, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the president of the UN conference on the treaty, said on the eve of the adoption.

“The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” she said, calling it a “response for humanity.”

None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – took part in the negotiations.

Australia was also not present at the talks.

Even Japan – the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 – boycotted the talks as did most NATO countries.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley came out strongly against the ban when negotiations opened on March 27, saying “there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic.”

“Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?” she asked.

RelatedNo more prestige

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The decades-old NPT seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.

Impatience however is growing among many non-nuclear states over the slow pace of disarmament as are worries that the weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands.

Disarmament campaigners say the treaty will go a long way in increasing the stigma associated with nuclear weapons and will have an impact on public opinion.

“The key thing is that it changes the legal landscape,” said Richard Moyes, director of the British-based organisation Article 36.

“It stops states with nuclear weapons from being able to hide behind the idea that they are not illegal.”

“This is really about removing the prestige from nuclear weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.


“They are seen as something very valuable and as giving power. This is supposed to remove that.”

During a meeting at the General Assembly, the treaty is expected to be adopted by consensus by the conference of nations that has negotiated the document without the nuclear powers and their allies.

After its adoption, the treaty will be open for signatures as of September 20 and will enter into force when 50 countries have ratified it.

During a vote at the UN General Assembly in December, 113 countries voted in favor of starting negotiations on the new treaty while 35 opposed the move and 13 abstained.

Another China hurdle for Bellamy’s

The turnaround plan of troubled infant formula supplier Bellamy’s has hit an unexpected hurdle with Chinese authorities suspending a key licence of its recently-acquired Camperdown Powder canning facility.


Bellamy’s shares are in a trading halt as the company tries to find out why Chinese authorities suspended Camperdown’s licence from the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA).

“The trading halt is requested to allow the company to determine the reasons and impact of the Camperdown’s suspension of its CNCA licence by the China authorities overnight,” Bellamy’s said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Friday.

Foreign suppliers of Chinese-labelled infant formula products in China, such as Bellamy’s, must register the canning facility used to blend and pack the products with the CNCA.

From January 1, 2018, the canning facility will also be subject to China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) registration.

Bellamy’s only this week completed the $28.5 million acquisition of a 90 per cent indirect interest in the Victoria-based Camperdown Powder blending and canning facility.

The company also completed a $60.4 million capital raising to fund the acquisition and other parts of its turnaround strategy.

In its capital raising prospectus, Bellamy’s said the Camperdown Powder acquisition provided a path to obtaining the required CFDA registration of its Chinese-labelled products.

Bellamy’s sells its Chinese-labelled products, which represent about 16 per cent of the company’s infant formula sales, to a distributor in China for sale in retail stores there.

It had planned to prepare a new formulation of Chinese-labelled products for canning at Camperdown and registration with the CFDA.

In its prospectus, Bellamy’s said the CNCA had to be notified of the change in control of Camperdown Powder and, if the notification was not accepted, Camperdown’s registration could be terminated.

Morgan’s analyst Belinda Moore said the licence suspension may be an administrative issue linked to the change of control, but further information was needed.

“We’re a bit in the dark, and I suspect we’ll hear something more Monday morning once they (Bellamy’s) have had time to speak to the relevant authorities,” she said.

Bellamy’s sought to acquire Camperdown Powders after Bega Cheese, one of its manufacturers, sold its CNCA-licensed infant formula finishing plant at Derrimut to Mead Johnson Nutrition in February 2017, meaning Bellamy’s Chinese-labelled products could no longer be registered through the plant.

Bellamy’s shares have more than halved in value since November amid flagging sales and guidance downgrades.

Its shares last traded at $6.74.

‘Welcome to hell’ G20 protest march broken up by riot police

What should have been a peaceful march by around 12,000 people in Hamburg protesting against globalisation was halted as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse around 1,000 far-left militants.


Seventy-six police officers were injured, a spokesman for Hamburg’s police told AFP.

“Police are still being attacked,” he said.

Officers called with loudspeakers on protestors to remove their masks but this was ignored and after more objects were thrown, authorities decided to separate them from the other protestors, police said on Twitter.

Two protesters sit on a street while the Police uses a water canon during a protest against the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, AP

“Unfortunately it has come to the first clashes. We are implementing corresponding measures,” read another tweet.

Protesters were seen scrambling to leave the scene, while others defiantly stood in the way of water cannon trucks as they moved in surrounded by riot police with helmets and batons.

Police tweeted a photo of a car and flames and said shop windows were smashed.

The main ‘Welcome to Hell’ march was then called off but thousands of people remained as night fell and demonstrators engaged in smaller skirmishes in the back streets of Germany’s second city, AFP correspondents said.

0:00 Water cannons used on G20 protesters Share Water cannons used on G20 protesters

Up to 100,000 demonstrators are expected before and during the two-day Group of 20 meeting gathering Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China starting on Friday.

There were 20,000 police on standby together with armoured vehicles, helicopters and surveillance drones. A holding centre for detainees has been set up in a former hardware store with space for 400 people.

“War, climate change, exploitation are the result of the capitalist system that the G20 stands for and which 20,000 police are here to defend,” demonstrator Georg Ismail told AFP.

‘Welcome to hell’

Major events like the G20 have in recent years usually been held in remote locations, but Germany was forced by its logistical demands to host it in a large city with a big venue and dozens of hotels.

Hamburg is desperate to avoid a rerun of the kind of major clashes seen at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa or the Frankfurt opening of the new European Central Bank building in 2015.

0:00 SBS Chief International Correspondent Brett Mason reports from Hamburg Share SBS Chief International Correspondent Brett Mason reports from Hamburg

In Hamburg, some 30 demonstrations have been announced, organised by anti-globalisation activists and environmentalists, trade unions, students and Church groups.

‘Welcome to Hell’ organiser Andreas Blechschmidt said the motto is “a combative message… but it’s also meant to symbolise that G20 policies worldwide are responsible for hellish conditions like hunger, war and the climate disaster”.

Protesters gather in Hamburg ahead of the upcoming G20 Summit. (AAP)AAP

Trump to meet Putin

The main focus of attention inside the G20 venue on the first day of the summit on Friday will be Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin.

Speaking in the Polish capital earlier on Thursday in front of 10,000 people, Trump didn’t mince his words about Moscow.

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defence of civilisation itself,” he said.

Arriving in Hamburg later Thursday, Trump headed to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has vowed to defend the 2015 Paris climate accord despite the US leader’s decision to withdraw.

Merkel said before meeting the US president that Trump was facing isolation within the G20 over the issue — one of several topics where the new US leader is likely to clash with his fellow leaders.


“We are not going to paper over the differences but rather, we will call discord discord. Because there are also different opinions on some important questions,” Merkel said.

Trump held a dinner with leaders of South Korea and Japan, focusing on North Korea’s successfully test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week. He tweeted afterwards only that the meeting was “great”.

In his first public remarks since the test, Trump said in Warsaw that Pyongyang’s military sabre-rattling must bring “consequences” and warned he was considering a “severe” response to its “very, very bad behaviour”.


Protect high speed rail link, govt told

Australia must protect a high-speed rail corridor along the east coast before it is usurped by urban sprawl, the nation’s infrastructure adviser warns.


Demanding action to protect vital corridors including the introduction of a national framework, Infrastructure Australia has described the rail pathway as the most urgent priority.

“This critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres and should be a key focus for NSW, Victorian and federal governments,” chairman Mark Birrell said on Friday.

“A co-ordinated approach, involving joint governance arrangements to oversee land acquisition, joint funding commitments and joint agreement regarding land use management measures will keep governments at both levels committed to the urgent task at hand.”

Infrastructure Australia has mapped out seven corridors as national priorities, estimating protection and early acquisition could save taxpayers $10.8 billion.

“Strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase,” Mr Birrell said.

“If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to ten times higher.”

Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester said protecting and acquiring corridors was primarily a matter for the states and territories.

“The coalition government is working with the states to ensure they are undertaking long term planning to protect corridors for any potential future rail corridors,” he said through a spokesperson.

“However, any potential high-speed rail between our capital cities is a long way off in the future.”

The government was instead focused on faster rail connections between capital cities and major regional centres.

Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese concedes fast speed rail tracks won’t appear overnight, but says it makes sense to start planning, believing the east coast link will be established within 20 years.

“You can’t make a decision today and then get on a train tomorrow. What you can do though, is plan today for tomorrow,” he told ABC radio.