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Monday, 20 October 2008
Page: 9655

Mr JOHN COBB (7:48 PM) —As the member of parliament with the most drought affected electorate in the whole country, drought is something I am only too distressingly familiar with, as obviously are my constituents. I very much sympathise with the Tasmanian farmers and all our colleagues, be they farmers or otherwise. Drought is very much an insidious creature and it does not discriminate between people. Certainly, New South Wales has had a bigger share of it than most and Western Australia has its bad times but is significantly blessed in wheat areas for it.

In Tasmania, facing the loss of their sixth growing season, rainfall figures are on average one-third of the usual levels and, despite the green appearance, many paddocks have no growth. I recently heard it rained more in the desert than in parts of Tasmania in the winter just gone. Stocking rates are down to 40 per cent, wool cuts are halved and lambing percentages are down by 60 per cent.

Unlike other states, the Tasmanian government seems to have no drought policy prepared, certainly not for the current, ongoing drought situation in Tasmania. In its budget recently, there was no allocation for drought assistance. Requests for anything extra will obviously require time and delaying cabinet approval. I am somewhat surprised the member for Lyons moved this motion congratulating the state Labor government—although, following what happened in New South Wales over the weekend, I am not surprised he is trying to paint the Tasmanian Labor government in a good light, but drought wise I do not think there is a lot to paint them for.

The TFGA, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, with whom I have had a long association, put it succinctly last month:

TFGA drought and climate change manager Nick Flittner said the strategy—

the strategy that was needed—

would avoid the uncoordinated and ad hoc approach to drought management that had been the hallmark of the handling of the current drought.

The acting general manager, Chris Oldfield, said:

The State Government clearly has struggled with this current drought …

It sounds horribly similar to the New South Wales Labor government, who, quite frankly, skite about what they have done in drought, whereas the federal government—our previous one and the current one—have put more into two shires in my electorate, I think, than the state government has put into the entire state as far as drought assistance goes. So it seems to me that, while drought was once totally a state issue, now the states, particularly New South Wales—and obviously Tasmania is not going to go broke over it—seem to be ducking out of it. The New South Wales government has been so arrogant that it has allowed irrigators to pay all the charges for water which they cannot deliver. However, it will let them put it off for a year or so if they pay 13 per cent interest—and the government said that three years ago, when interest was about eight per cent. I would urge the member for Bass, who spoke earlier in this debate, to read the TFGA’s media release and to think through a strategy which might help the farmers in that state.

They say that adversity breeds kindness, and I have seen many acts of generosity during the six or seven years of drought in my electorate. Rotary and the CWA have been towers of strength. They give enormous support to rural communities. In fact, I recall that we asked the CWA to allocate nearly $10 million in New South Wales, probably twice that amount around Australia. Organisations like that do an incredible amount to help, and they do what is not a pleasant job. I remember that, in just a week, donations to a fodder and grain drive being organised by the Rotary Club of Everdale included 100 bales of hay, eight tonnes of pallets and grain and almost $10,000 in cash. This was a group of people getting together to help farmers who were not in their part of the world. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. JE Moylan)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.