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Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Page: 6324

Mr RAMSEY (1:56 PM) —I rise to speak on the Farm Household Support Amendment (Ancillary Benefits) Bill 2010. Just before the Parliamentary Secretary for Water leaves the chamber, I would like to say to him in the most helpful terms I possibly can what farmers would generally do—I was a farmer before I came into this House—about deficiencies in the soil. You should say to your family on these dairy farms that what we do when we have a phosphorous deficiency is put phosphorous on the soil. When we have a nitrogen deficiency, we put nitrogen on the soil. We would not address a nitrogen deficiency by putting phosphorous on the soil, because that would probably lead to acidification. When you talk with your family, get this matter straightened out and that will be a good starting point.

This bill has my support in so much as it is focuses on trying to improve farm business models. It is an attempt to improve on the exceptional circumstances scheme that we have been working with for some years to address drought in Australia. The trial in Western Australia is an opportunity to see whether or not it is a viable model. I must say that I am not a great fan of the exceptional circumstances scheme, which may come as a surprise to some people as I am someone who represents a large area of Australia that has been suffering from drought. But I am not a fan of this scheme largely because of the inconsistent way in which the assistance is provided, the distortions in the market caused by these inconsistencies and the ability of some and not others to access the exceptional circumstances package. For instance, boundaries are well defined but you may fall on the wrong side of a boundary. There are also different financial structures in any particular farm which may or may not give you access to the kind of help you might need to survive.

I have regular contact with a number of rural councillors and most of them are of the opinion that it is in fact far harder to get exceptional circumstances assistance in South Australia than it is in the other states—in particular, New South Wales. I think that is brought about by the primary industries in South Australia that tend to have a different view on some of these things. Access to EC actually causes a great number of conflicts in a district between those who receive the assistance and those who do not. However, having said all that—and I have raised this issue before—I am campaigning to restart the exceptional circumstances scheme for some areas in my electorate, largely because I feel that we have dragged these people halfway across the desert and now we have abandoned them, areas around Cleve, Cowell, Arno Bay, Ceduna and the upper north cropping district. As I have just said, there are some difficulties with EC in that it can be inconsistent. The EC was cancelled in these areas last year after a visit in November by NRAC, the National Rural Advisory Council. NRAC advised that the drought was over, but clearly for those districts, which I have raised with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the drought was not over. In fact, for those confined areas the better year passed them by entirely. NRAC visited the upper north cropping district in November and within a week that district was faced with a heatwave.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted. The adjourned debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour this day, and the member will have leave to continue his contribution.