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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3903

Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (13:57): There was so much unnecessary bad news in the Abbott government's first budget that it has not been possible for the media to cover every detail. One of the less-publicised details was the $480 million cut to Landcare. This cut is a very bad mistake. As members know, Landcare is made up of thousands of community based groups who care for the natural resources of our country. More than 40 per cent of our farmers are formally involved in Landcare and many more practise Landcare farming techniques. Together they battle soil salinity and erosion, deploying sound land management practices. Each year they plant millions of native trees, shrubs and grasses for a range of benefits, including improved soil and water quality.

To capitalise on the Asia-led dining boom and to lift farm-gate profitability, we will need to significantly lift productivity and output in the farm sector. Better managing our natural resources is a key to achieving that objective. That is why I cannot understand why the minister has left natural resource sustainability out of the terms of reference for his white paper. This ill-conceived budget decision is a bad mistake and, for the sake of our farmers, our economy and the environment, it should be reversed. I do not want to hear, 'We will use the green army to do this very complex resource security work.' A happy 25th anniversary to Landcare this week it is not, Prime Minister.