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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 260

Mr TREVOR (4:01 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Will the minister update the House on the reaction to the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan, including the farmers hardship payment?

Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the member for Flynn for the question. He is a member who is well in touch with the farmers in his electorate. It is critical that the government invest in long-term nation-building projects in rural and regional Australia in order to support jobs and boost long-term growth. We referred yesterday to the reaction from the NFF as one of the first farmers organisations to explain their view of how this would affect farmers in need. They said:

The Government’s $950 tax-free bonus for all drought-affected farmers—reaching some 21,500 farmers in need—will be a much-needed fillip to families and regional economies.

But the most extraordinary thing has not been the positive reaction from the farmers; the most extraordinary thing has been the reaction from some of the people within this chamber—because, while the member for Flynn understands that there are 550 farming families in need in his electorate who will receive the $950 payment, I think people were astonished when the member for Wide Bay decided to announce that the more than 130 farming families who would receive the $950 payment in his electorate were going to be told that he would come in here and vote against the $950 payment for those 130 farming families in his electorate. But maybe it is because he did not consult fully with the other members of the National Party and Liberal Party in this chamber who have many more than 130 families who will receive the benefit but who have now been committed to come into this chamber and vote against them receiving that benefit. Did he consult with the member for Parkes, who has more than 800 farming families in his electorate for whom he is going to walk in here and vote that they not get the $950? Did he consult with the member for Murray, who has more than 1,900 farming families in her electorate and who will come in here and vote against it? Did he think for a moment about the electorate of Mallee and the extraordinary challenges that are evident in areas like Mildura, where there are more than 2,150 farming families who will receive the $950 payment—yet he will vote against it? But the members for Flynn, for Blair, for Eden-Monaro, for Wakefield, for Ballarat, for Bendigo and for Corangamite will come in here and defend the farming families in their electorates?

Did he think about the member for Gippsland, who campaigned during his by-election that he would support the upgrade of the Maffra Secondary College—yet, when money is going to come forward to help fund an upgrade at Maffra Secondary College, he has been committed now to come in here and vote against it? Maybe the member for Gippsland ought to have a look over his shoulder at someone who was elected in the by-election in another part of Australia on the same day, because the member for Lyne campaigned vigorously for the upgrade of Laurieton primary school, and he will be able to come in here, defend his local primary school and vote in favour of it. There are three political parties in this room. The political party in this room that represents the fewest country seats is, without surprise, the National Party. There is a reason for that.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, on that note, Hockey Joe having had a bit of trouble rustling up a few more questions, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.