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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1887


Mr BROAD (Mallee) (18:27): I think the member for Hunter is almost in mourning at having lost his old sparring partner, the member for New England. It's a whole new world out there.

Mr Hammond: Plenty of material with the new one!

Mr BROAD: Yes, he'll have to work away. I enjoyed listening to his speech and the summary of his bipartisanship. We'll take that up over a drink later, member for Hunter, but it is a new world. You've got a new young buck to keep in line, so I look forward to watching that happen.

The Imported Food Control Amendment (Country of Origin) Bill 2017 is part of the final leg of the journey of ensuring that Australians know where their food comes from. My involvement with this started way back on a tractor drive which began in Tasmania. They drove tractors to Canberra to try to highlight to the Australian people that it shouldn't be too much to ask that when Aussies walk into a supermarket they are able to see where their food is produced—is it produced in Australia or is it produced in another country? I think that's fair and reasonable, and there are a lot of Australians who really do want to know the answer to that question.

It is estimated that 87 per cent of Australians now live within 50 kilometres of the coast. People like to project the bushie as being the great image of Australian culture, but that is actually not the case. Whether we like it or not, we are a very urbanised people. I lament that we are so urbanised, because that's done two things. Firstly, it has meant that there are fewer people living in regional Australia, which means members of parliament such as me have an electorate that covers a third of the state—and after the next redistribution that will probably go to about 40 per cent of the state—whereas the member for La Trobe has got a beautiful part of the world but it's only a small part of the world. I've got a big part of the world. Becoming more urbanised has meant that people live closer together. They have a more congested lifestyle, and I think that congested lifestyle does wear on people. Secondly, they're disconnected from their food somewhat. But I think the average Aussie still does want to know where their food comes from. They want to know, and they've got an innate gut feeling that Australian grown food actually is better for them—and it is good for them.

Having been in agricultural production from 18, when I finished year 12, to 38—20 years of my life—I've seen the caveats we put around withholding periods if we use chemicals; I've seen the way that withholding periods are honoured, maintained and signed off with legal vigour; I've seen the importance of this when you deliver grain to a silo; and I've seen the way we treat our livestock, with a great deal of care. I can say with a lot of confidence that, if you buy Australian food, because of the regulatory regime and because of the people who produce that food, it is good for you. It is not only good for you but also good for your children. If you talk to mothers who are shopping, you find that one of the things they are very mindful of is good nutrition for their children. If you compare that situation with the melamine scare with powdered infant milk in China a few years ago, where, sadly, some Chinese babies died as a result, you can see why a strong regime of regulation and good farming practice ultimately is not only good for you but also good for your children.

Further, knowing where your food comes from and buying Australian grown food is good for your job. If you buy something that is produced locally, that money spins through the economy. A guy said to me once that there is an inequity here when you think about a worker on an Australian farm who works in good occupational health and safety conditions, who gets paid superannuation and who works normal hours. There is no child slave labour. The standards that we take for granted in a modern Australian workplace are not always the same as the standards we see in many parts of the world. I hark back to seeing people in developing countries who were spraying endosulphan, often using backpacks. I've used this chemical on my farm in the past—we don't use it anymore—and we had to use full respirators, the whole deal. These people were spraying cotton with endosulphan. This is long before GM cotton came in. The life expectancy of those people was 30. So buying Australian food is not only good for your health and your children's health but also good for your job—it keeps the money local—and good for your community.

There is nothing better than going to a farmers market and seeing something that is produced locally and in season. I fear that's one of the things that we've lost in our culture a little bit. We see food as fuel rather than as the blessing that it is. People buy tomatoes and wonder why they don't always taste good. There's a season for tomatoes. There's a season for table grapes. I have to tell you that now is actually the season for table grapes. If I can put in a plug: right across my patch they are picking table grapes. If you go to the supermarket you'll see grapes there. They are produced in my patch and they are getting picked now. So looking for country-of-origin labelling also gives you an understanding of what's in season. Buy fruit that is in season. If you want to eat good, wholesome flavoured fruit, buy the stuff that's in season. Buy apples when it's apple season, buy citrus when it's citrus season and buy grapes when it's grape season, and you will ultimately get the best of things.

We have a unique agricultural landscape that many people don't fully appreciate. The fact that we've got a climate that goes from the northern tropics all the way through to Tasmania gives us a variety of fruit that can't be grown in many other parts of the world. If you think about what's produced in my patch, almonds, you have to have a certain number of heat units and a certain amount of water to produce almonds—and to produce olives. We don't often stop to think about the fact that we've got Tasmania at the bottom and the tropics in the north. People might not know this, but all the grain grown around the world is grown on the 32nd parallel. If you look at where the wheat belts are across the world, they are the 32nd parallel down from the equator in the Southern Hemisphere and the 32nd parallel up from the north of the equator. You can't produce everything everywhere. We're very pleased that we can do this because of the diversity and the great landscape that we have.

So buying Australian food is good for you, good for your children, good for local jobs and good for your community—that sense of community that comes from buying food—and it also saves on travel. If you think about it, when you're buying food from the other side of the world, it's had to travel a heck of a long way, it's had to be stored and it's not going to be anywhere near as good, or taste as good, as something that's grown very locally.

It's also good for the environment. I want to hark back to a story I once saw when I was in Nanjing in China. I was at a wool-scouring plant. For those of you who haven't had much experience in the wool industry, that's how I saved the deposit for my farm. It's pretty hard physical work but a good way to make you pretty buff and look good for the girls when you're young. You toughen up when you're doing real physical work. But I have to say wool has quite a lot of lanolin in it. It's quite interesting stuff to scour. I was in Nanjing, and they were scouring wool there. Of course, all the scum coming out of the wool was going straight into the Yangtze River, and I said to the guy at the wool-scouring plant, which was scouring 14 per cent of the world's wool, 'Are you concerned about your environmental management?' He said: 'No, sir. I have certificate on wall says "very good environmental manager". Certificate on wall—no problem.' That was their answer as far as good environmental management is concerned. Can I say that, if you are buying Australian-grown food, it has been produced to standards that are First World—standards that actually look after the environment. So don't buy Australian-grown food just because it's good for you; also buy it because it's good for your children. Buy it because it's good for you having a job and your children having a job. Buy it because it's good for your sense of community and understanding how food is produced, and also buy it because it is good for the environment.

I have to say this is something that's been very dear to my heart. I was one of the directors on the board of Australian Made, Australian Grown, and I'm really pleased to see that, in the discussions around promoting Australian Made, Australian Grown, we have maintained the little green triangle with the kangaroo on it. I have to tell you there's a reason why I support that as a brand. One reason is that it has a 25-year history. It quietened down for a while, and under the prime ministership of John Howard he pulled together a board to really fire that up. I was one of those board members along with some very good, upstanding citizens. That board was all voluntary, and it's gone from strength to strength.

Also, people are time poor. When they go into the supermarket, they want to get in and get out. They want to be able to see what the product is. They haven't got time to read every little thing. But now, as a result of this government and this initiative, people can walk into a supermarket, and they can pick up and very clearly see the green triangle with the kangaroo—clearly Australian. They can also see the bar chart which can tell you if it's half made in Australia, three-quarters made in Australia or fully Australian—which, of course, makes it open for things such as muesli producers and mixed biscuits, where you sometimes do have to bring in some imported food. So it makes it very clear. People are time poor, and it's also very quick for them.

There's another thing that I found when I was a board director of Australian Made, Australian Grown: there is a perception of our product that is very strongly held, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The things that we take for granted as food safety they cherish. When I was on the board, what I found was that a third of the companies that were using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo weren't just using it to appeal to the patriotic nature of Australians; they were also using it as a marketing tool in the Asia-Pacific. There's nothing better than the kangaroo. There's nothing more Australian than the kangaroo—so much so that there was a company, AH Beard, that was making beds, and effectively it was selling beds to China. You would think that would be like selling ice to Eskimos, but here was an Australian company selling beds to China. We saw this all the way. So I want to say good labelling not only benefits Australian consumers and our economy domestically but has actually helped our economy in the export sense.

I listened to the member for Hunter talk a while ago about the productivity of Australian farmers, and I have to say the great thing farmers say to me is, 'Get out of our way, get out of our pockets and let us have a go.' That's what we've tried to do. Since I've been a member of this parliament we've signed up to free trade agreements with Korea, China and Japan. We've now signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These are things about getting out of the way—making it easier to get their products to the market. We've invested in the roads and rail infrastructure to help them get their product to port, and we've stood by them and said at no case are we ever going to shut down your industry. I give that in contrast to the terrible shutdown of the live cattle industry that had almost diabolical effects on Northern Australia. It was done, basically, because of a populist email campaign. The member for Hunter was talking a lot about the agriculture industry. I think gladly that he was there in those days and he's learned from that. I hope and pray that the Australian agricultural industry continues to grow. I hope and pray that it continues to become such a key pillar of our economy, and I'm so confident about the industry because of the confidence, the innovation and the productivity of the people I see. It does show that good government policy ultimately translates to good outcomes. Good government policy such as country-of-origin labelling, developing export markets, accelerated depreciation, and investing in roads and rail infrastructure to get their products to port. But bad government policy that removes confidence in their markets, that removes confidence in their employment arrangements, that removes confidence in their water will have diabolical effects on our agricultural industries. Do not trust these guys yet, I say to Australian farmers. Trust us. We are the ones that are delivering it. You can see it in your commodity prices and in the confidence. Everywhere I go across rural Australia they are expanding and walking tall. This doesn't just happen; it is the result of the policies such as the one we are talking about here today that the government introduces. No-one else in Australia understands how to stand by farmers like the coalition which I'm proud to be part of. That government is delivering for them.