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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28736

Mr ZAHRA (5:31 PM) — The National Party do not know much, but they know how to look after each other. That is what we have seen from this government. Whenever the National Party have been given any sort of responsibility for any administration, their instinct has always been not to be competent in their portfolio, not to be good at their job, not to look after their constituencies, but only to look after their political mates. That is what we have seen from start to finish in everything which the National Party have touched in relation to their role in the federal government. And we have seen it in relation to dairying. It has been no more stark than in relation to the administration of the dairy regional assistance package. The way in which this package has been administered is outrageous. It is absolutely shameful that this has been used as a pork barrel fund instead of being used to set up this industry to assist dairy dependent communities.

Mr Truss —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The amendments make no reference to the dairy regional adjustment program. Therefore, the comments of the honourable member are out of order. This is, after all, a debate on the confined nature of the amendments.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hollis)— It is a fairly restrictive debate, but I am sure the member for McMillan will draw his comments back to the amendments as moved.

Mr ZAHRA —Absolutely, Mr Deputy Speaker. They might not like it, but it is important that someone in here says these things and gives voice to the real concerns that people in dairy dependent communities have in relation to the way in which this program has been administered. What about, for example, the Baw Baw Shire Council proposal? They put in to the Dairy Regional Assistance Program for a mere $500,000—a mere $500,000 from DRAP—to try to expand existing businesses which are doing well in their districts, to try to create an additional 50 or 60 jobs. They did not receive a cent from the Dairy Regional Assistance Program.

Mr Truss —I rise on a point of order. There is no reference in the amendments to the Baw Baw Shire Council. I suggest that the member's attention should be drawn the nature of the amendments.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —With respect to the point made by the minister, I thought we were talking about a sum of money. I thought the honourable member for McMillan was drawing his comments to that sum of money. I heard $60 million mentioned and he is talking about $500,000. It is still a sum of money.

Mr Truss —It is a sum of money for a totally different purpose. One is for distribution to farmers. There are no amendments before the chamber in relation to the Dairy Regional Assistance Program.

Mr O'Connor —On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: this amendment relates to a supplementary assistance package of $140 million, of which $20 million is for DRAP purposes. As I understand it, $20 million is for anomalies and $100 million is for dairy farmers.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —As I am sure you will appreciate—for those of us who are not dairy farmers—it is quite a detailed bill, but I am sure the honourable member for McMillan will confine his remarks within the constraints of the amendments that we are considering.

Mr ZAHRA —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am. It is not my fault that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry does not understand the nature of his own amendments to the legislation. There is an additional payment of around $20 million to the Dairy Regional Assistance Program. It is not my fault that the minister for agriculture does not understand that, and it is not my fault that the federal government saw fit not to provide any support at all to the Baw Baw Shire Council proposal which asked for only $400,000 from this program. It asked for only $400,000 for this very dairy dependent community. It would have created around 50 or 60 new jobs in Baw Baw Shire Council, a local government area which has suffered enormously as a result of the shake-out in the dairy industry. They have lost 160 jobs at the Drouin Bonlac factory.

This is no small thing. When it comes to similar closures which have taken place in other parts of regional Australia, the federal government has been pretty quick to step in. In Eden in New South Wales, when they lost 150 or 200 jobs at their cannery, in a community of about the same size, the federal government was pretty quick to step in and to give them $3.5 million. But what did it give the people of Drouin out of DRAP? Not one cent. The government should be ashamed of itself. It should be condemned for its behaviour in not supporting this very worthwhile submission proposed by Baw Baw Shire Council. When it comes to the other components of the amendments, I should say, in relation to the additional $100 million—(Time expired)