The Federal Government is acting to ensure Gippsland’s agricultural and fisheries sectors can continue to export high-quality produce to overseas markets.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the new $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism would help secure freight flights into Australia’s key export markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment.
In addition, around $10 million in Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) levies will be waived for all Commonwealth fishers, ensuring they do not have to pay Commonwealth levies for the remainder of 2020.
“The Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is focused on saving lives and saving livelihoods and Gippsland’s agriculture industry is key to this,” Mr Chester said.
“Gippsland has some of the highest quality agricultural produce, dairy and seafood in the world and we want to make sure these industries are able to continue during this difficult time,” Mr Chester said.
“These sectors also generate major employment in the region and it is critical we keep as many people in jobs as possible until commercial capacity can be restored again.”
Mr Chester said the freight assistance and levy relief would be of critical importance for local fisheries.
“The fishing industry has been hit hard since access to China was cut off in January, and these measures will go some way in helping them get through this difficult time,” Mr Chester said.
“Unlocking key international markets will get fishers, divers, deckhands and processors back on the job and the levy relief will help local fishers through current financial pressures.”
The International Freight Assistance Mechanism will initially focus on the key markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, with four key departure hubs: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
It will be overseen by Mr Michael Byrne, who has been appointed as the International Freight Coordinator General. Mr Byrne has significant international logistics experience as Managing Director of Australia’s two largest logistics companies Toll Holdings and Linfox plus as a non-executive director of Australia Post.
Mr Byrne will work with Austrade to help establish arrangements with exporters, airlines, freight forwarders and industry bodies plus oversee the mechanism’s operations including advising the Government of destinations, freight selection and prioritisation.
The initiative is part of the Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Further details are available in the International Freight Assistance Mechanism Fact Sheet.