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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 7


Mr JOYCE (New England) (09:44): I'd like to continue on with the comments from the member for Calare and just note how the economics of our nation work. Mr Speaker, I look across the chamber and see that you're a strikingly good-looking man. I was looking at the tie that you got on there, and I bet you that tie is not made in Australia. Neither is your suit. Neither is your shirt. I don't know about your shoes—probably not. The car you drove—

The SPEAKER: They're RM Williams.

Mr JOYCE: RM Williams—owned by a French company but made in Australia, no doubt about that. I bet the car you drive, Mr Speaker, is from overseas. Certainly the fuel inside it is from overseas . I imagine you've got a phone in your pocket there.

The SPEAKER: No.

Mr JOYCE: You haven't? Well, if you did, it wouldn't have been made in Australia. There are two screens in front of you. Neither of them are from Australia. If I went into your house, Mr Speaker, I bet you cook on a Bosch stove because you like that German style of engineering. And no doubt the television you watch would probably be a Samsung—no, you'd be above a Samsung. You'd have a Japanese television, I imagine—something pretty flash!

Everything in your life, Mr Speaker, has basically come in on a boat from overseas. And the only reason it comes in on a boat from overseas is that somebody somewhere must be sending something in the other direction. And guess who those people are. It's all those terrible live cattle producers, terrible beef producers, shocking live sheep producers, all those wool producers and those terrible people in the irrigation industry. All are earning export dollars for our nation. What about those terrible miners, terrible coalminers out there earning a dollar for our nation? All are earning export dollars so we can have the expectation of the standard of living which is so present and so manifest in everything we do at the moment and in how we live.

We have to support these people. It's not just a form of charity. We've got to support these people to support ourselves. We have to support people through drought because they live with the vagaries of the climate. They live with the vagaries of the climate in such a form that they make money if it rains. If the season goes with them, if luck goes with them, they can make the export dollars to support our standard of living. When a drought happens, it quite obviously is a disaster not only for them but for the whole economy. The agricultural economy was the fastest-growing sector in recent times in our nation. I'm happy with the work this government has done, now and when I was the minister, to make sure that came about.

We are always going to have to manage droughts, but to manage droughts we must make sure that there is dignity maintained in the household so that, if hard times come, they can pay their chemist bill, they can pay their grocery bill and they can pay for their fuel. That is why we needed the farm household allowance. When we started, when we came to government, 367 people had got it off Labor. Now it's getting close to 8,000 people because we changed the criteria so that we could keep that dignity in the house, keep that dignity at the kitchen table. The lady of the house or the fellow or lady if they are by themselves know that there is at least some money coming in so they could pay some of those bills. Otherwise, they had nothing. It is not like they had social security in the cities if they lost their job; these people had nothing. They literally had to go without all. That is not respecting the dignity of the people on the land.

Now, with this further extension, I want to commend the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The extension for a further year means we've got four years. This is vitally important because a lot of people are coming to the end of the three-year period and were going to run out. They were going to be left in an invidious position, because they would have nothing. On top of that, we're heading towards a billion dollars worth of concessional loans. I think it's about $850 million worth of concessional loans. I might remind the House that, when we came to government, the Labor Party had knocked eight concessional loans out the door.

We're making sure we maintain that. We set up the Regional Investment Corporation so we would have an ongoing institution to properly manage this and to have a capacity to increase its mandate to look after the people on the land because they're looking after us. Just like the coalminers, the bauxite miners and the iron ore miners, so are the sorghum producers, the wheat producers, the beef producers, the sheep producers and the wool producers—they are looking after us, so we must look after them.

It's disappointing every time I listen to the Labor Party—they're supposed to have a strong social conscience, which is one of the vestiges of the Labor Party—because all they talk about is tearing these things down. They're going to dismantle the Regional Investment Corporation. I've never heard what they're going to put in its place—not once. They want to move APVMA from Armidale back down to Canberra. Why? Because they don't believe in decentralisation. They don't have a vision for regional Australia. They have no money on the table for the inland rail. They have none. We listened to their story. There is no money on the table for inland rail from the Labor Party. They have no vision for a greater regional Australia—none. We believe that we have to stand behind the dignity of these people and to drive their economies forward.

What we've expended on the Farm Household Allowance so far is approaching a quarter of a billion dollars—$230 million. I commended the New South Wales state government the other day for their $50,000 seven-year interest-free loan. I had a look at some of the conditions on it. I think it's going to be a tough one to get your hands on.

I say once more that when the state asks, 'What have we done?' We've got close to a quarter of a billion dollars now that we've paid out in the Farm Household Allowance. The New South Wales government has to put their hand in their pockets for freight subsidies. They must do that. That's their role. That's their job. I commend them for what they announced the other day with the Malpas pipeline at Armidale. It's about $12½ million. Good luck to them. Well done. We were fighting for it as well, but you've paid for it. Well done. It is very important during the drought to get pipelines in.

But most important now, during this drought what people are asking for, what farmers are asking for, are freight subsidies for fodder, for the movement of cattle, for the movement of sheep and for the movement of water. I had to bring in fodder myself the other day—I've got a couple of blocks—and it came from Gatton in Queensland. It cost thousands and thousands of dollars to move fodder. You've just got to do it. Buying cotton seed is important, as is trying to keep the basis of the herd together. God willing, a few showers are going over at the moment, but even if they go over and even if it rains it's the middle of winter, so you're not going to get a lot of fodder growth out of that. You'll start to get some subsoil moisture. Around about August you'll start to get some growth. Then, of course, you've got to wait for the place to pasture back up again so that you can start improving conditions for cattle.

If you sell your cows now you're going to get nothing for them. No-one wants old cows in drought as that's not how you make money. You've got to be able to get your hands on the money to support those stock, to support your herd, to get to the other end of the drought, so you can get a cash flow up and running again.

This is all part and parcel of what a caring government does. What we need is as we have articulated—a clear vision on this side of the House with 100 per cent write-off on water reticulation and 100 per cent write-off on fencing, and write-off over three years for fodder storage for your silos and for your hay sheds.

We took farm management deposits from $400,000 to $800,000. I was trying for a million. I got $800,000. We passed the legislation that you could have a write-off against the money you owe the bank. If you owe the bank $1 million and you have $800,000 in farm management deposits, the bank should just charge you interest on the $200,000 difference. We've done that.

There is a banking royal commission on at the moment and the banks are saying they're doing a fair job and there's nothing to see here. They've got a few problems but they're trying to defend their position. But I'll put something to you: the banks should immediately, all of them—not just the rural banks—should now be processing the capacity, so that if you have a farm management deposit and you have money owed to the bank, these things can be netted out and you only pay the interest bill on the difference. That's what's supposed to happen. I'll tell you what they're doing. It can work like this: the bank says, 'Okay, you've got $800,000 in farm management deposits to help you through a drought. We'll give you three per cent on that. Then we're going to lend you the money you need, the million dollars you need, at seven per cent or eight per cent with an overdraft, so you'll probably have a four per cent differential.' A four per cent differential on $800,000—four eights are 32—means they're touching for $32,000 a year. I don't know whether anybody said anything up at the royal commission about that, but they should. This is something that should be happening right now to show their support during the drought.

What we've clearly showed is we support people during the drought not because it's charity but because it's an economic necessity. It's an economic necessity that we continue to maintain our export dollars if we want to maintain our standard of living that is so apparent in everything we do in our lives. The people in towns are usually pretty good. It is the people in the cities who have to understand. They have to look into their lives and say, 'How much of my life was actually produced in this nation? My shoes, my shirt, my socks, my car, my phone—most of it's produced overseas.' We have to support the people who put things on the boat and send it in the other direction. That is one of the reasons why we have to support people through drought: they are one of the key people who do it.

The other thing is if you allow the collapse of farming families during a drought—because they're the people most likely to be hurt—then you'll slowly, piece by piece, get a greater progression of the corporatisation of the Australian landscape. I don't want that. I want to make sure that we have Australian mums and dads as the predominant owners of the Australian asset, just like how we have Australian mums and dads as the predominant owner of the house in the suburb. As I've said before, I don't know what economic theorem it complies with—probably none—but what it does comply with is our sense of patriotism and national purpose. For that to happen, we must support them when things are tough. We must support them at times of drought.

People on the land do not live with a widget factory. They do not have a predictable income stream. They live on one of the most vague income streams you can imagine. People on the land are so often driven to this not so much by economic principles but by an almost religious passion to be on the land, to earn their living from the land. We show our compassion to them at this point in time because, if you look deeply into exactly what they do, they do this: they live in one of the noblest of pursuits. Their job is to feed and clothe people. They don't exploit them through their weaknesses. They don't exploit them through addictions. They don't conjure up ways to swindle money out of people's pockets with things they don't need. They deliver back to humanity food and clothes. People who make it their lifetime pursuit to feed and clothe people are people who are the most deserving of our support in times of drought.