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Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Page: 14131

Mr HORNE (11:56 AM) —I rise to support the second reading amendment. Firstly, let me say how interesting it is to sit here and listen to this government try to defend a bill that is going to see the demise of the dairy industry as we know it—an industry that has brought jobs and prosperity to many country areas. I look forward to listening to comments that will undoubtedly be made by the member for Kennedy, Mr Katter. Having sat with him on committees, I know how he feels about this, and I just wonder if he will run true to his heart or true to the party line. I will be very interested to hear what he does say.

It is interesting to have a look at the speakers list. When I think of what the dairy industry has done in areas of New South Wales like the Tweed, the Clarence, the Taree area and the Shoalhaven, it is interesting to note that the member for Richmond, the member for Page, the member for Lyne and the member for Gilmore are all absent from the speakers list. That tells you where their hearts are in this debate. They will not show their faces in here and defend the government on this legislation because they know the hardship that is going to be brought to the towns and villages throughout their electorates once this starts to bite. They know what will happen.

Mr HORNE —I listen with interest to the interjection from the previous speaker, and I realise that in a former life he was an adviser to the Hon. Joan Sheldon, the former Queensland Treasurer. I know where he comes from, and I know why he is here. He has not got a job back there, and that is why he is here defending this. I am also aware that yesterday during question time the Minister for Forestry and Conservation got up and cried crocodile tears because the Premier of Victoria was talking to him about a payout figure for some timber workers—I think he said about 100 timber workers—that the Victorian government wanted to pay out. When I have a look at this legislation, what do I see? I see that this legislation is about paying out dairy industry people—and it is not 100 workers. In my state, 600 dairy farmers will exit the industry, and this government defends it.

I also listened to the Treasurer, who ridicules the opposition about a wholesale sales tax. He talks about Zimbabwe and other places that have a wholesale sales tax. What is this? This is the government that hides behind the statement, `We have never introduced a new tax'—that is, if you discount the gun buy-back and if you discount the East Timor levy. Now we have a wholesale sales tax of 11c a litre to buy out dairy farmers in rural areas that this government supposedly supports. This is the government that claims they are the champion of rural and regional Australia, and yet they are giving a $1.74 billion bribe. They gave that bribe before the vote was taken. They said, `Here's the carrot. If you support the deregulation, we will make that money available for you to get out.' So that is what happened.

It is not dairy farmers who have taken this decision, it is big businesses like Parmalat and Dairy Farmers that have forced the issue, and the small farmers in country towns that I represent keep ringing me and saying, `This will be the worst day; the family farm has been with us for generations; we do not know where we are going; we will have a pot of money, but we know the effect it will have on the town—the people who sell the feed, the vets—

Mr Cameron Thompson —You don't want them to have the pot of money.

Mr HORNE —You go and contact Joan. She is asking where you've gone! The people who supply irrigation equipment, fencing materials—all that sort of thing—know what their future is. They know what effect it will have on them. The jobs that will disappear in country towns over this buyout will be enormous. Let me give you a little example, because I love this story about deregulation. Go back to the time when the egg industry deregulated. There was only one state that did not deregulate its egg industry—Western Australia. Today, which egg producers have the best farm gate price? The egg producers of Western Australia have the best farm gate price. Which consumers have the cheapest eggs? The consumers in Western Australia have the cheapest eggs. If you want to know where deregulation leads you—that is where it leads you. That is where this is already leading us, because you have already stated the price of milk is going to go up by 11c a litre to pay for the package. We have already seen what partial deregulation did in New South Wales where the farm gate price dropped and the price to consumers rose by 8c a litre. Is that what deregulation does? Do free market forces produce cheaper milk?

Free market forces in the dairy industry have produced bigger profits for the multinational corporations like Parmalat and so on that are seeking a bigger share of the Australian dairy industry. That is where it is going to lead us. It is going to lead us to an industry that will no longer be owned by Australians, where Australian workers can look to a future or a job. It will lead to a situation where country towns—where I reared my family—will no longer exist as they did, because the major industry will be destroyed. That is why I stand to support the amendment that has been moved by the shadow minister. This government has raced headlong into this. I well recall the day the minister got up and made the announcement that he was offering $1.74 billion. I felt at the time that that was one of the greatest bribes to a rural sector that I had ever heard. It was the encouragement of: `It's on the table now; if you put your hand up you will get a share of it; if you don't, it may disappear.'

It is a sad day for Australia that this industry will no longer be known. With the passage of this legislation, it also shows that we have a government that is completely uncaring as far as rural and regional Australia is concerned. I notice the member for New England is here. I wonder whether some of the dairy farmers around his area support this. I wonder whether they have called him or written him letters saying, `Yeah, we support this; we want our industry to be destroyed.'

The other thing I would like to say is that in my area it is already causing change. The message has gone out about deregulation that, if you want a place in the dairy industry, it is a case of get big or get out. Some producers have already said, `It is the only industry I know; I'll get big.' The farmers of the old dairy farm as we knew it—with the bales, paddocks, lucerne cropping and perhaps milking 120 to 180 cows; a very pleasant sort of rural pursuit—in the area are deciding, `No, we have got to change; we have got to change the nature of our farming,' and so a number of DAs have gone in to local government. If you are going to milk 1,000 cows, you do not let them out to graze. They are farmed in sheds and locked up while they are lactating. They are fed in those situations. Of course, the neighbours say, `Hey, we have lived here all our lives with a very pleasant sort of a dairy farm down the road. We are going to object to that.'

I know one particular producer, a very good dairy farmer, who is now finding that he has spent the best part of $100,000 to get his DA application up to council standard only to find that the local community does not want that sort of farm. So, having spent his $100,000, he now has to make the decision, `Will I change or will I get out too?' I know that he is on the verge of getting out. That is someone who was prepared to go along with the change and found the changes to be in the too-hard basket. These are the sorts of issues that are going to see the demise of the dairy industry in my electorate. For towns like Dungog and Gloucester, which had a dairy factory in the past and where the dairying industry was a major supporter of jobs which brought money into the towns, there will be virtually no dairy farms at all—not that there are many left anyway—and those that are left will take the carrot and go because they have no alternative. That is the shame of this legislation. I certainly look forward to comments from members of the government because, having made this decision, those government members who have a significant dairy component in their electorate know the wrath they will face from the people.

I certainly look forward to seeing what the members for those areas that I mentioned—Richmond, Page, Lyne and Gilmore—put out in the media and how they will tell the people who live in their area, `I didn't even have the gumption to get up and speak on this legislation in parliament.' Does that mean they did not support it? But they will follow the party line again because that is what it is all about. They know, as well as I know, that the dairy industry that has brought so much prosperity and wealth to their area is dead: it is gone, and it will not come back. This government is condemned because it should have ensured that there was something in place to create the jobs that will be lost. As I said, in New South Wales 600 dairy farms will go virtually immediately when this legislation is passed. What does the government have to put in their place? I suppose it will get the Hon. Tony Abbott to say, `There's work for the dole, you know. You can get up here and pick apples. You can do what I did last Sunday—go out and pick apples.' That is all right in the apple season and that may keep a couple of them going, but it will not support the 600 families that have now lost the basis of their livelihood.

I will not bore the House any further. I feel quite emotional about this issue. My grandfather was a dairy farmer. He was a share dairy farmer, the poorest type of dairy farmer—the dairy farmer that owned the stock and the equipment but not the land— and he was always at the whim of the landlord. I wonder where share farmers have been mentioned in this legislation. Who is looking after them? It will be the landlord that decides whether he will continue or not and it will be the landlord that says to the share farmer, `I own the quota. You go. You can go and register for unemployment benefit.' That is all the share farmer will get out of it. The boards of big business will sit around the board table and say, `After that $1.74 billion that we got from the government, look at our shares. They've jumped up.' And the country towns will suffer again.