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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2799


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (15:09): I rise to respond to taking note of answers this afternoon. I did think that, two days after handing down one of the most significant budgets in this country, we might have been taking note of the progress of this country and the two major reforms we announced on Tuesday night. Let me take this opportunity to put some facts on the record about grazing cattle in Queensland national parks. Unlike you, Senator Macdonald, I do not have the privilege of any letter from Minister Ludwig or the Queensland government, but I do have a bit of background on this issue. Perhaps for the next couple of minutes we could very quietly and carefully put some facts down.

We know that there has been a call for national parks in Queensland to be used to graze drought-affected cattle. There has been the article in the Australian claiming that our environment minister, Mr Tony Burke, has rejected a plan to let starving cattle loose in conservation reserves and national parks in Queensland. Apparently the article says that that has infuriated the state government and drought-hit graziers. Mr Tony Burke is a former agriculture minister; obviously he makes those statements with some background from his former portfolio. I am led to believe that he has told the Australian that he did not have an interest in helping to wreck the states conservation areas. I have to say that Australia's and Queensland's national parks were established for very good reasons. This form of tenure offers real protection, not to grazing drought-affected cattle but to protect threatened ecosystems and species. So any decision to—

Senator Heffernan: Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The growth of the number of feral pigs in national parks is a disgrace.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Heffernan, that is not a point of order.

Senator Heffernan: I know it is not. There are800,000 feral pigs in the Northern Territory.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Heffernan, that is a debating point.

Senator CROSSIN: Let us bring feral pigs into the argument. Senator Heffernan, come back! Now you are talking about something I can talk about and that is pig shooting in the Northern Territory. So sit right down because now you are on the program! I actually know about feral pigs and pig shooting in the Territory. You should know that. So come back down!

Senator Heffernan: I have got to get out of here!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Crossin, do not talk across the chamber, please, and do not encourage Senator Heffernan. And Senator Heffernan, you cannot speak while not in your seat.

Senator CROSSIN: Senator Scullion could well assist me, not that I have actually been pig shooting.

Opposition senators: Oh!

Senator CROSSIN: Do I look like a sophisticated lady who would go pig shooting? I have shared many a beer with many people, probably at the Humpty Doo pub, swapping stories about pig shooting. Senator Macdonald, if you want to ask questions about pig shooting and starving cattle, I might be able to help you. Lately in the Northern Territory we have had the issue of starving horses. I am giving it my best shot here, seeing that I would really like to have talked about the budget and given that I really want to know whether Mr Abbott this evening is going to commit to the $70 million we have committed to build the hospital at Palmerston in the Northern Territory and the $38 million for a new paediatric ward. That is the crucial issue on my mind today.

As you can well imagine, I am trying to establish the very fine line between protecting national parks and assisting farmers in Queensland, even though they may have 300,000 starving head of cattle. The administration of the EPBC Act is a matter for my colleague Minister Burke and I am advised that he is yet to receive a proposal from the Queensland government. I understand Mr Burke has been clear that national parks should be there for people to enjoy nature and not for cattle grazing. So we have announced the Farm Finance package. We are trying to support Australian farmers and graziers who face enormous challenges, including producers in Queensland. We want to ensure that farmers are equipped to deal with all of the differences they face in the climate, rather than to look for an ad hoc solution to open up a national park in a conservation area. As I said, we announced a national drought reform measure in the budget and that is the Farm Finance package. That is the way to resolve this issue—to support those producers. (Time expired)