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National Food Plan initiatives potentially placed on hold

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The National Food Plan, a comprehensive policy covering all elements of food production, supply, education and marketing may have had its initiatives placed on hold while the Federal Government drafts its own agricultural white paper.

Promised by Labor in the 2010 election and finalised in May this year, the National Food Plan is an extensive report which was created by many government officials across multiple departments.

The announcement that the Coalition will be creating its own White Paper for agriculture in the lead up to the 2013 election fuelled speculation the comprehensive National Food Plan would be dumped, ABC News reports.

When asked by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert at a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday whether the government will be proceeding with the National Food Plan, Paul Grimes, Agriculture Department secretary said “it’s a question for government to consider any of the elements that were in the National Food Plan.”

"The way to interpret it is that the government has to consider how it would be progressing with any matters out of the Food Plan," said Grimes.

"I wouldn't describe it in those terms [that there's no work currently being done on the Plan], obviously we have to advise the government, but it's quite appropriate for the government to have an opportunity to review policies and determine which of those policies it will be taking forward."

Former agriculture minister under the Labor party, Joe Luwig who launched the National Food Plan asked Grimes about the progress of the government’s new white paper.   

"We've already seconded [six or seven] staff to Prime Minister and Cabinet to commence preparations for the White Paper, that work is now underway. The government will obviously be considering the arrangements for conducting the White Paper, but good progress has been made," Grimes said.

Grimes was also asked to what extent the new White Paper will differ to the existing Food Plan, to which he stressed that at this stage, he was not in a position to comment on specifics and that policy questions will be considered through the White Paper process.

"The White Paper will have a fairly broad focus to it and they'll be matters that the government considers in the development of its White Paper," Dr Grimes said.

"At the moment it's not appropriate for me to go into the specifics of the White Paper for a couple of reasons; first because the responsibility for producing it is with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, secondly these are matters that are under consideration by the government."

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