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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3389


Mr HAASE (Durack) (11:56): It gives me a great deal of pleasure to use this opportunity to support the member for Murray in this private member's motion. So much has been done recently in relation to investigating the situation, and reports will be written, and I would like to think that some of those reports will be heeded and actual budgetary amounts will be allocated to the problem. But more often than not that is not what we have seen, especially from this government, and I am sorry to say I cannot see the point of view of the opposite side that this is a shared responsibility. Since Labor came to office we have seen agricultural investment reduced from $3.8 billion to $1.8 billion and of course half of the $1.8 billion is funded at industry level. So it is all very well to say that both sides of politics have not done the right thing and made the investment, but the evidence is there for all to observe that never has funding been slashed to the point that it has in the last periods of Labor government.

We need to do more. We need to realise that today an agricultural career is not seen as a sexy pursuit. It is not a case of there being bad press for agriculture; the reality is that in the big wide world of advertising and social media there is no press. That is what we are suffering. We are seeing cuts by government in spending, we are seeing an under-rating of the whole food task by the Labor government, and we need to prove with budget measures that we really do have an equal view of this issue. There is a lot being said today of a platitude nature and we need to see hard cash. When you take money out of the agricultural industry it does not matter where it hits, whether you take it out of quarantine inspections and therefore expose us to threats to biosecurity or whether you take it out of direct funding or whether you avoid putting it into tertiary courses and allow other courses to be better subsidised, and you have a situation where overseas paying students are paying full fees and they are all doing professional courses other than agriculture because their parents back home in Asia see agriculture as a peasant pursuit and do not value it highly. All these things are a problem.

In 2050 we are expecting a world population of nine billion. Australia needs to double its food production. We need to double our food production task today. To do that we are going to need an increased value of science and of quality of science. We need to be ever vigilant in relation to biosecurity, because it is no good simply looking at the current situation. As the world evolves we are being more and more exposed to biosecurity problems and we need the top performers, the top scientifically minded tertiary students, to devote their studies to agriculture, to science generally, and we need to make sure that we have got the best minds working into the future giving us good, solid biosecurity in this world. We need a government that is prepared to put money into customs inspections also, not take it away. We need to have a situation where we are making the investments that this industry is truly due. We have all manner of things competing with tertiary education for agriculture today. The professions are getting the status of being where young students with bright minds ought to go. It is an easy life. It is a clean life. It is a highly promoted life in the media today. Who reads on the front page about the goings-on of Farmer Brown back in the boondocks, as the city viewers would see it to be? No-one. It came to my mind while I was researching this that Sylvania Waters did more for the house construction industry than all manner of talking in parliament. Maybe we do need to see a future where shows like The Farmer Wants a Wife are a little more promoted, because we need to get the idea that there is a future for agriculture back into the minds of young secondary students so that they are prepared to take up tertiary education in the field.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order!

Mr HAASE: I should think so, Madam Deputy Speaker. The agriculture sector has a huge job ahead of it: feeding nine billion people by 2050. If we do not do our bit, we will have failed.