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Secretary's review

Welcome to the Department of Agriculture annual report 2018–19. I’m pleased to report here on our efforts to achieve our purpose, to work with national and international governments and industry to grow the value of agricultural trade and reduce risk to the agricultural sector.

Our work during 2018–19 has been dominated by the impact of drought and extreme weather events on Australian agriculture and by the continuing scrutiny of the way we work as a government regulator.

In my review last year, I wrote that, at the end of 2017–18, areas of NSW and Queensland were experiencing, or entering into, drought conditions. At the end of 2018–19 the Bureau of Meteorology advised us that the Murray–Darling Basin, which occupies most of south-eastern Australia, had experienced the driest 30 months since records have been collected. The forecast for the coming months is not optimistic for a change to this pattern. Our own climate research by ABARES indicates Australia faces significant changes in future rainfall, including lower rainfall in southern Australia and more severe droughts and floods.

In 2019 we also saw the damage caused by severe flooding in north Queensland, resulting in the reported loss of more than half a million livestock.

These conditions take their toll on individuals and families that depend on the land. They also affect our objectives for Australian agriculture. Drought and floods reduce supply for Australia’s agricultural exports, undermine the productivity of primary producers and the businesses and communities that rely on them, and deplete the country’s natural resources. Responding to these challenges has been a significant part of our work for the year, and it will continue into the future.

Our work in achieving and maintaining market access is a major part of that response and the foundation for a strong agricultural sector. The significance of this can be seen by comparing our experience during this drought and the worst years of the Millennium Drought, when prices collapsed, producers rushed the saleyards and there was enormous commercial damage. This time, with greater access to markets, that has so far not eventuated. This is a great turnaround in a decade and an indication of the greater commercial strength and resilience of the sector.

This year, the government received the findings of the independent review of our capability and culture as the regulator of live animal exports. Philip Moss AM recommended the department make a range of changes to its regulatory practice. We have made significant progress on implementing those recommendations and many of them have been fully implemented.

In 2019 we suspended sheep exports to the Middle East for the northern summer from June to late September. This was the first ever prohibition of the export of sheep on animal welfare grounds. We also set conditions for sheep exports during May in the lead up to the suspension. We finalised the export conditions after examining all aspects of live export regulation, and considering a range of feedback.

We received the recommendations of the review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock for live animals transported by sea. These recommendations will help ensure animals are fit for export from Australia, and their health and welfare is managed throughout the export voyage.

Our response to these reviews forms part of a broader program of work to enhance our regulatory practice across exports, biosecurity, imported food, illegal logging, water efficiency and labelling standards, and industry levies. We are developing a new Regulatory Practice Framework, encompassing initiatives that will strengthen our culture and capability as professional regulators across our business.

This is the first annual report reflecting the new strategic framework introduced in our Corporate Plan 2018–19. This year, we have streamlined the report’s presentation of performance information. The remainder of my review gives an overview of our performance against each of our strategic objectives. This is followed by the results against our published performance measures. I am pleased to note that we have met or are on track for most of the measures we set for ourselves at the beginning of the planning cycle.

 We are developing a new Regulatory Practice Framework, encompassing initiatives that will strengthen our culture and capability as professional regulators across our business.

Increase, improve and maintain markets

Free trade agreements

We work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to achieve the best outcomes for Australian agricultural and food export interests in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. During the year, we achieved milestones on 2 important free trade agreements.

Australia and Indonesia signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Once it comes into force, the agreement will boost Australia’s economic cooperation with Indonesia, support strengthened commercial links and stimulate increased 2-way trade and investment.

Under the agreement, 99% of Australian goods will enter Indonesia duty-free or with significantly improved preferential arrangements. In turn, all Indonesian exports will enter Australia duty-free. Both countries will benefit from improved access for Australian agricultural commodities, including live cattle, feed grains, beef and sheep meat and horticulture.

This agreement will help build the infrastructure and industries for a prosperous Indonesia. Australian suppliers will have more opportunities to contribute to Indonesia’s fast-growing economy.

In February 2019 the Peruvian Government ratified the Peru–Australia Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA). The process for Australian ratification is underway. The PAFTA negotiations were a great success, delivering an agreement in record time for an Australian free trade agreement (FTA).

Peru is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Removing tariffs will open this market for Australian agricultural exports and put Australia on an even footing with competitors that already have a preferential FTA with Peru. The PAFTA will provide significant benefits for Australian exporters that build on the substantial gains achieved with Peru through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Market access

Negotiating market access protocols is a significant part of our work. In 2018–19 we had a number of achievements in key markets. This includes gaining market access for walnuts to India, and establishing new export requirements that increased the number of Australian meat establishments eligible to export to Brunei. We maintained access for processed pork products to Thailand following regulatory changes in that country, and worked with Singapore to simplify the approval process for processors that export Australian products containing imported pork from other countries.

We successfully reinstated northern Tasmania’s fruit fly pest-free area status for 7 export markets following an outbreak in 2018. We also maintained access for citrus to the European Union for states and territories unaffected by the citrus canker outbreak.

During the year, the Chinese Government increased the number of fish species Australia can trade with China. This provides improved access to a key market for Australian seafood exports. It is the first outcome reported through the Australian Government’s new Trade Barriers Gateway.

We kept building our overseas counsellor network, establishing new posts in Chile, Mexico and the United Kingdom, and expanding our presence in Japan, India and Brussels. After Peru’s recognition of the Australian Export Meat Inspection System, our new counsellor in Chile has been working with Austrade to finalise revised certification arrangements for beef exports to Peru. This presents an opportunity for Australian beef exporters to re-enter a high-end niche market and meet the needs of Peru’s growing ‘foodie’ culture.

We also facilitate audits by trading partners to demonstrate that Australian exports meet the requirements of importing countries. In 2018–19 we hosted audits of export meat systems by 3 of our trading partners, including the United States, which is Australia’s second-largest market for meat exports. A successful audit is a requirement to maintain current market access to the United States for meat exports. The audit report was finalised in the first quarter of 2019–20.

 This presents an opportunity for Australian beef exporters to re-enter a high-end niche market and meet the needs of Peru's growing 'foodie' culture.

Standards and systems

We continue to work through the World Trade Organization (WTO) to promote free trade and to maintain an international approach to biosecurity obligations. This includes contributing to reforms in the WTO that are focused on dispute settlement, monitoring and notification functions, and trade rule negotiations. We now have a Minister-Counsellor (Agriculture) in the United Kingdom to work with DFAT and like-minded countries to progress all issues, particularly agricultural trade reform.

We also coordinate Australia’s input to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which develops global food safety standards. In October 2018 we chaired the 24th session of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems. The committee addressed issues including food fraud in the context of food safety and fair trade practices, electronic (paperless) certification and third party assurance of food safety.

We are working with the state and territory governments on how we work with industries to enhance agricultural traceability systems. Good traceability helps inform consumers and trading partners about the safety, pest and disease status and authenticity of Australian export commodities. In 2018–19 we implemented Stage 2 of the National Traceability Project, which involves developing a traceability framework and action plan. The action plan is expected to be released later in 2019.

Encourage agricultural productivity

Supporting agricultural communities

The drought and the floods in northern Queensland highlighted the importance of targeted programs that assist primary producers experiencing hardship. They need support to improve their ability to manage risks to their businesses and livelihood.

In December 2018 the Council of Australian Governments signed a new National Drought Agreement, setting out an ongoing joint approach to drought preparedness, responses and recovery. This agreement builds on drought policy reform, including moving away from drought declarations, exceptional circumstances arrangements and associated lines on maps to qualify for drought support. It provides a framework to enable a consistent approach to drought policy and complements measures by different jurisdictions to promote adaptation to climate change.

During the year, we made substantial changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program. The length of the program was increased from 3 to 4 years, the farm assets threshold was temporarily increased, and 2 lump sum payments of up to $12,000 were made available.

In 2018–19 around 4,100 new recipients gained access to the FHA. The program has now assisted more than 12,000 recipients since 2014, providing support payments of more than $343.4 million.

Demand for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) continues to be strong, particularly since the FHA changes. In 2018–19 the RFCS had more than 6,100 clients, an increase on the previous year. The government increased the RFCS budget by $5 million, ensuring more counsellors were on the ground to support farmers.

To further support farmers in need, we funded a 2-year pilot for 2 Farm Liaison Officers to connect farmers, businesses and communities with support from the RFCS and other community assistance measures.

Farm management deposits reached a record high of $6.755 billion on 30 June 2019. Around 45,000 primary producers use the accounts to manage their cash flow. During the year there was evidence that some primary producers in drought-affected or flood-affected areas of NSW, Queensland and South Australia were drawing down their accounts, or depositing less than in the past.

We worked on policy design to improve the drought resilience of our farmers and communities. We evaluated the Pilot of Drought Reform Measures in Western Australia, which was undertaken by the Australian and WA governments in 2010. The evaluation found that the pilot delivered positive outcomes for farmers and communities, including improved long-term drought resilience for farmers who participated in the strategic planning programs.

We commissioned research, using results from the Regional Wellbeing Survey and other sources, to determine a baseline of drought resilience and to design metrics for future monitoring and evaluation at both farmer and community scales.

We also began preparations for the Future Drought Fund, which will provide $100 million annually from 2020–21. The fund will support drought-resilience projects that increase the adoption of the best farming practices and technology, enhance community resilience, address infrastructure needs and support better management of natural resources. This investment will help lift the productivity and profitability of Australian agriculture and enhance the health and sustainability of our farming landscapes.

 The FHA program has now assisted more than 12,000 recipients since 2014, providing support payments of more than $343.4 million.

Supporting agricultural industries

We support rural research and development to help primary producers increase their productivity, profitability and competitiveness. In 2018–19 we worked with an independent consultant to co-design with stakeholders a shared vision for the future of Australia’s agricultural innovation system. Agricultural innovation—a national approach to grow Australia’s future is based on engagement with more than 550 stakeholders and an examination of global innovation systems. It makes recommendations in 5 areas to strengthen the agricultural innovation system, to help Australia reach the goal of a $100 billion agricultural sector by 2030.

We worked with other government agencies on agricultural workforce matters, implementing measures to help farmers access the seasonal labour they need. This includes extending the period of time working holiday visa holders can work for the one agricultural employer and making it easier for farmers to access workers through the Seasonal Worker Programme. The government also added 16 skilled agriculture occupations to the Regional Occupation List, which will help agricultural employers find and retain skilled migrant employees.

At an industry level, we collaborated with the Department of the Treasury to review the Sugar Code of Conduct. The review found that while industry partners are working together on a number of challenges, relationships between some parties remain tense, which affects their ability to reach commercial terms of contracts without regulatory support. The government agreed to amend the code and set another review for 4 years’ time. We also worked with the Treasury on consultation to develop a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry.

In 2018 we reviewed the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct. The review recommended the code continue with a small number of amendments to improve its operation, based on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s experience in monitoring the code’s operation. The government is considering the review.

Support sustainable, high-quality natural resources


Further progress was made towards meeting the ‘bridging the gap' target under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. Surface water recovery in the Basin (including some contracted water still to be delivered) reached 2,028 gigalitres (GL) long-term average annual yield (LTAAY) at 30 June 2019.

The ‘bridging the gap’ target decreased to 2,075GL, following the adoption of 2 amendments by Parliament to the Basin Plan that gave effect to the outcomes of the Northern Basin Review and the operation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) Adjustment Mechanism. Approximately 47GL of surface water (around 2.3% of the target) is still required to meet surface water SDLs for some individual catchments. The Australian Government continues to work with states and private sector project proponents to deliver the final volumes of water required using existing contracts and the pursuit of additional proposals.

In July 2018 a Basin-wide program was launched to recover water from efficiency measures. Project agreements to undertake state-led projects were negotiated with South Australia and the ACT. The Basin water ministers agreed to new socio-economic criteria for the program in December 2018 and the program was paused to incorporate these criteria.

During the year, we implemented the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme to assist drought-affected farmers to build resilience to dry conditions. The scheme offers eligible farmers a 25% rebate up to $25,000 for water infrastructure expenses. By late June 2019 the scheme had approved at least 1,600 projects with a rebate value of $7,877,312 .

Our work on the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme continues to deliver benefits to consumers and Australia’s water resources. A 2018 evaluation by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney estimates the scheme has resulted in Australian households saving more than $1.1 billion a year on utility bills and is helping save 122 billion litres of water a year—enough to fill more than 47,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

We are now expanding our compliance efforts under the WELS scheme, addressing areas of risk such as online sales, new property developments and modular building construction.


This year, we released the fifth Australia’s State of the Forests Report. The 5-yearly report examines the social, economic and environmental values of Australia’s forests. Australia has 134 million hectares of forest (more than 3% of the world’s forests) and has the seventh-largest forested area by country. Between 2011 and 2016, Australia’s forest area increased by 3.9 million hectares.

The report shows Australia’s wood products industry employed 51,983 people in 2016. In 2015–16 the value of logs harvested was $2.3 billion, the wood products industry had a value of production of $23.7 billion, and the value added by the forest and wood products industries was $8.6 billion. This represented a contribution of 0.52% to Australia’s gross domestic product. In the same year, Australia’s trade in wood products (imports plus exports) was worth $8 billion.

The report found that around 4.2 million tourists visit Australia’s major forested tourism regions each year. Our forests contain an estimated 126,000 registered Indigenous heritage sites, and 11 million hectares of forest is on non-Indigenous heritage-listed sites.

In September 2018 the Australian Government launched the National Forest Industries Plan. The plan sets out measures to underpin growth in Australia’s renewable forest industry and support the industry to plant a billion new plantation trees for forestry. As part of the plan, the government has announced sites to pilot new Regional Forestry Hubs in northern NSW, the South-West Slopes Bioregion in NSW, north-west Tasmania, Western Australia and the Green Triangle on the Victoria–South Australia border. The hubs are intended to help identify impediments to industry growth and opportunities such as options for new plantations.

Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are long-term, bilateral agreements for the sustainable management and conservation of Australia’s native forests. In 2018–19 we reached agreement with NSW and WA to renew and extend RFAs in these states. These agreements and the Tasmanian RFA (extended in August 2017), now have a 20-year rolling life. We are progressing the renewal and extension of the 5 Victorian RFAs to ensure their extension before 31 March 2020.

Renewing and extending RFAs is a significant and important achievement, because these agreements provide certainty to the forest industry, support regional forest communities and provide protection for endangered species.


Australia has a world-leading, environmentally responsible fisheries management framework. In 2018–19 we released the new Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy.

The Harvest Strategy Policy implements an evidence-based approach to setting harvest levels in Commonwealth fisheries. It is designed to meet economic and sustainability objectives. The Bycatch Policy provides a framework to manage the risk of fishing-related impacts on bycatch species, by ensuring the exploitation of fisheries resources is consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.

The Status of Australian Fish Stocks Reports 2018 provide the most scientifically robust, up-to-date information on the sustainability of Australia’s wild-catch fish stocks. This edition assessed 120 species or species groups, including finfish, crustaceans, molluscs, sharks and rays. Of 324 classifiable fish stocks, 254 stocks were classified as sustainable, 18 as recovering, 23 as depleting and 29 as depleted. The overall stock numbers classified as sustainable have improved.

The reports cover the majority of Australian-caught fish that Australians eat. In 2018 the commercial catch accounted for 142,328 tonnes, an increase of almost 8,000 tonnes since 2016. The reports provide a roadmap to ensure that sustainable stocks remain that way, and identify where action is needed to address species and stocks of concern. The reports also inform Australia’s reporting on achievements against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

 The Harvest Strategy Policy implements an evidence-based approach to setting harvest levels in Commonwealth fisheries.

Agricultural land

We implemented a $15 million program to help communities manage the impact of pests and weeds during drought. The program complements other Australian Government pest and weed management programs, supports the government’s broader biosecurity objectives and will stimulate local economies. We awarded a total of $15 million in grants to 48 projects focusing on pest and weed management activities or wild dog exclusion fencing. The projects will be undertaken in 2019 and 2020.

We continued our collaboration with the Department of the Environment and Energy to deliver Phase Two of the National Landcare Program, implementing the $450 million Regional Land Partnerships program. We have contracted 49 service providers across Australia to deliver 56 regional sustainable agriculture projects to improve the condition of soils, biodiversity and vegetation on-farm and to help farmers adapt to a changing climate and markets.

We implemented the second round of the Smart Farms Small Grants, providing a total of $9.2 million to 110 projects to help organisations and individuals to undertake sustainable agriculture projects and build the capacity of land managers to adopt best practice natural resource management methods.

The National Landcare Program also funds Smart Farming Partnerships, which offer larger grants for partnerships between skilled organisations to work on new and innovative approaches to enhancing both the productivity and sustainability of primary industries. The second round of grants opened in March 2019 and closed in May 2019.

Biosecurity—managing risks to agriculture and the environment

Australia’s biosecurity system is recognised as world-class. It is a significant economic asset that also protects Australia’s unique environment and way of life.

We are committed to the continuous improvement of the biosecurity system, operating offshore, at the border and post-border. The volume of people, mail and cargo entering Australia is expected to nearly double between 2015 and 2030. This will likely be accompanied by increases in trade and passengers from higher-risk areas. At the same time, the rate of spread of pests and diseases is accelerating.

For example, in just a few years the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) has become a major pest of concern, resulting in significant demands on our staff and resources. As part of our seasonal intervention to detect and prevent BMSB incursions we expanded our focus from 2 countries to 9. We have worked with industry to implement control measures as smoothly as possible.

The spread of African swine fever (ASF) to neighbouring countries also poses a threat to Australia's 2,700 pork producers and to the country's reputation as a provider of clean, green and safe food. We have stepped up activities to keep ASF out of Australia, including increased screening at international airports and mail centres. Between November 2018 and August 2019 we intercepted 27 tonnes of pork at our airports.

In 2018–19 we continued to implement the findings of the 2017 review of the national biosecurity system and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB). In November 2018 agriculture ministers released their final response to the review’s recommendations, all of which they agreed to or agreed to in-principle. This included agreement on a revised IGAB, which came into effect in January 2019. For the first time, the new agreement clearly articulates a set of core commitments for all parties. It specifies Commonwealth and state and territory responsibilities that advance the shared responsibility for the biosecurity system.

As part of the national response, we developed the National Biosecurity Statement. This sets out a vision and goals for biosecurity, clarifies roles and responsibilities, and outlines priorities and principles for managing biosecurity risks. The statement is based on consultation with industry, environmental groups and state and territory governments. It has been an excellent example of collaboration to achieve a common goal.

We worked to deliver the government’s Biosecurity Innovation Program to support smarter biosecurity into the future. In its first year, the program has funded 14 projects, including behavioural studies of detector dogs, next-generation DNA sequencing and a trial of sensing technology to detect BMSB in shipping containers. These emerging technologies and approaches have the potential to improve the rates of early detection of biosecurity pests and diseases.

Our Biosecurity 2025 and Beyond initiative is taking a co-design approach with industry to identify ways to better manage the risks associated with the increased volume of passengers and trade. This work is being undertaken across small, targeted projects and builds on existing initiatives across the department. The first area for change is improving approved arrangements with multi-commodity freight forwarders and cargo terminal operators.

In October 2018 the Australian Government appointed Ian Thompson as the first Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO). The new office recognises the importance of biosecurity to Australia’s environment. The CEBO is also the national point of notification for environmental pest and disease detections and responses under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA).

During the year, we achieved a milestone in the fight against red imported fire ants, when an incursion at Brisbane Airport was declared as successfully eradicated. The incursion was first detected in September 2015 and was being managed under the NEBRA. Governments also agreed to a new 5-year cost plan to ensure the eradication of an incursion of browsing ants in Western Australia, and to extend the response to eradicate browsing ants from Darwin until 2022.

 The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer recognises the importance of biosecurity to Australia's environment.

An efficient and capable department

Our work relies on having an efficient and effective department with a professional, engaged and committed workforce.

This year we committed to continue building an organisational culture that is accountable and aligned, collaborative and integrated, and future oriented. We have developed our new People Strategy and Strategic Workforce Plan for 2019–2023 to embed this culture, build employee capability, meet future workforce requirements and support a diverse and inclusive workplace.

As part of this approach, we have also increased our focus on diversity, developing a new Inclusion Strategy and action plans, and supporting our staff networks to drive diversity initiatives with support from senior executive champions.

We made a significant investment in enhancing our integrity culture. This included training and educational campaigns to increase awareness of integrity and security risks, and ensuring staff have access to support and appropriate mechanisms to report integrity issues. During the year, staff attended more than 100 integrity awareness sessions, and we held our first Security Month to provide specialist training across our regions.

Our continued focus on rehabilitation management resulted in our highest-ever compliance rate in Comcare’s annual audit of our Rehabilitation Management System. We received a compliance rate of 100%, and were commended on our early intervention policy.

We sharpened our focus on cyber security in response to the heightened awareness within government about existing and probable future threats. Collaboration between our cyber security staff, the Australian Signals Directorate, service providers and capability vendors is key to improving our security posture and better managing cyber risks.

We are investing in expertise and contemporary technology, and improving our systems. For example, we have made progress in providing strong management of staff and contractor accounts. This will help align our operations with government security standards. In 2019–20 we will continue to dedicate resources to identifying security weaknesses, assessing associated risks and progressing a prioritised cyber security remediation program.

We recognise the vital role that technology will play to meet the challenges of growing Australian agriculture. In December 2018 we released our new 4-year ICT Strategy. As part of the strategy, we have commenced our first ICT enterprise capability development projects. These will give us a single view of our clients and our workforce, and simplify client digital engagement. We are working with industry on initiatives to promote innovation in the way we develop our ICT systems and provide services.

We are working through our Information and Data Management Agenda to make the most of our information and data assets. This work builds on whole-of-government data reforms that are underway. We are implementing information and data governance arrangements, developing strategic data policy and data sharing practices, and looking at ways we can manage data to provide greater services to our clients and stakeholders.

 We made a significant investment in enhancing our integrity culture.

The year ahead

Our department ended 2018–19 with the appointment of 2 Cabinet ministers responsible for different parts of the portfolio. We have commenced a significant body of work to deliver the government’s priorities.

The drought will continue to be a priority for primary producers and the department. We will implement the National Drought Agreement and prepare to implement the Future Drought Fund, which will invest in drought-resilience projects. We will also make changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) as part of the government’s response to the 2018 FHA review, and finalise a review of the Rural Financial Counselling Service.

The Prime Minister has committed the government to developing a national plan to enable Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry to be a $100 billion sector by 2030. This is an exciting opportunity for us to effect real change for Australia, delivering important policy that will benefit producers and the industries that support them, and create jobs for regional Australia.

In 2019­–20 we will build on the work that produced Agricultural innovation—a national approach to grow Australia’s future. We will work with stakeholders to identify and implement the actions needed to transform the agricultural innovation system into one that can deliver the productivity gains needed.

We will continue to strengthen our culture and capability as a regulator, publishing a regulatory practice statement as part of our new framework. Our work will include implementing the recommendations of the ASEL sea transport review, and responding to the findings of the next ASEL review for live animals exported by air.

Implementing the Modernising Agricultural Trade initiative will be a significant focus in 2019–20 and beyond. This is the start of a long-term enhancement of our capacity to facilitate agricultural exports. We will work across the department to understand future business needs, collaborate with stakeholders and drive improvements to key biosecurity and exports systems.​ Implementing the Modernising Agricultural Trade initiative will be a significant focus in 2019-20 and beyond.​Free trade agreements (FTAs) are an important means of getting Australian agricultural commodities to international markets. In 2019–20 we will continue to implement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which came into force at the end of 2018. The Australian Government has finalised FTA negotiations with Indonesia and Hong Kong. We will support negotiations with the European Union and the development of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

We will build on our work to modernise our export systems. We are developing a modern ICT platform to improve export certification and quota systems. Exporters will see an improvement in service delivery, with the ability to easily access relevant certification information and better online administration of these activities.

The state-led water efficiency projects will continue in the year ahead. We will also raise awareness and encourage participation in the Water Efficiency Program. The Australian Government has agreed to fund a range of state-led water efficiency projects that will proceed in the year ahead. This includes appointing Community Engagement Officers to help eligible participants apply. The program seeks to recover 450 gigalitres of environmental water by 2024.

We will continue to lead the development of an international standard for water efficiency labelling, in partnership with Standards Australia and industry. The new standard is expected to reduce business costs, improve access to overseas markets for Australian manufacturers and provide a tool that can be used by other countries to save water through consumer labelling schemes.

We will continue to implement the National Forest Industries Plan. The Regional Forestry Hubs pilot will involve work with industry, state and local governments, other key stakeholders and the community to help the Commonwealth consider plantation development opportunities, infrastructure needs and employment opportunities for the forest industries.

Two major international agriculture meetings in Australia are scheduled in the second half of 2019. We worked with industry for several months preparing for the 55th Council Session of the International Sugar Organization, held in Cairns in July 2019. We will provide industry support ahead of the 78th International Cotton Advisory Committee Plenary Meeting in Brisbane, in December. Attendees from around 90 countries will attend providing a tremendous opportunity to showcase Australia’s agricultural industries.

We anticipate another busy year in biosecurity, continuing to strengthen arrangements to address the risk of pests and diseases entering the country. Our focus is on working smarter, building up our Biosecurity Integrated Information System, upgrading our ICT and investing in new opportunities through the Biosecurity Innovation program.

Our people remain our greatest asset. In 2019–20 we will deliver against the priorities we have set for ourselves in the new People Strategy and Workforce Plan. We will be working to address the government’s decisions on the findings and recommendations of the APS Review. We will also keep looking at the way we work, to meet the Prime Minister's expectations for improved service delivery and a clear focus on the contribution we are making to the agricultural sector and the Australian public.

 Our people remain our greatest asset.