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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6753


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (15:58): I must say the way that the member for Hunter led with his chin in this MPI reminded me of the CS Lewis quote:

Answers to leading questions under torture naturally tell us nothing about the beliefs of the accused; but they are good evidence for the beliefs of the accusers.

We are seeing real evidence of this here. Members may have missed the Guardian article which appeared recently titled:

Labor plans 'country caucus' to tap regional voters alienated by budget

Federal move would ensure rural impact of every major policy is taken into account, believes Joel Fitzgibbon

It goes on:

Federal Labor is preparing to establish a “country caucus” that would meet separately before the main caucus and could use its numbers to ensure policy takes regional and rural Australia into account.

Given the member for Perth followed the member for Hunter in this debate, I was wondering where and in what room would this caucus occur?

This article goes on, and it gives some hope to the member for Hunter:

On Tuesday night the New South Wales Right faction endorsed the New South Wales farmer, firefighter and leading rural advocate, Vivien Thomson, in Labor's No 3 winnable spot in the Senate ticket for the next federal election.

If the member for Hunter can hold onto his seat in the redistribution, all is not lost for him. He may have another person to join his caucus. I was thrilled for the member for Hunter when I read that. The article continues:

Her endorsement, led by the NSW general secretary, Jamie Clements, was seen as part of the move to diversify Labor's appeal in rural Australia.

By bringing another member into this place from rural Australia, they are going to diversify Labor's appeal. I can follow that. It goes on:

Joel Fitzgibbon, as agricultural spokesman and member for the regional seat of Hunter, is the architect of the country caucus idea.

Hence we have this MPI today. The article continues:

He said while the rural group was a 'work in progress', he hoped it would eventually review the regional impact of every major piece of Labor policy and generate ideas to benefit the bush.

'We are currently looking at ways we might engage on rural and regional Australia more formally and better as a caucus', he told Guardian Australia.

I wish him all the best in that, because for one person doing that for the whole of Australia it is going to be an enormous task. Mr Fitzgibbon went on:

We hope to get country members—

himself and I think this newly preselected New South Wales candidate for the Senate—

and like minds together to become a clearing house for policy; generating ideas and when necessary using our collective weight to ensure policy takes into account regional and rural Australians.

What collective weight the member for Hunter is going to throw behind this! The article continues:

Fitzgibbon has just completed a drought tour and in an unusual move for Labor, he ran a 'matter of public importance' on the effect of the budget on rural and regional Australia.

What we have seen here is the second unusual move by Labor with an MPI on regional and rural Australia. What an absolute joke. They all should be ashamed of themselves. They are starting, in the year 2014, a rural and regional caucus and they are in here telling us who should stand up for regional and rural Australia. This is a shocker. (Time expired)