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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 732

Agriculture Industry

Mr DRUM (Murray) (14:40): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Will the minister update the House on the importance of energy security and affordability to hard-working regional Australians, particularly in the agricultural industries? Can the minister outline any obstacles to securing the jobs and productivity of Australia's $60 billion agricultural sector?

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (14:40): I thank the honourable member for his question. Australia has the most efficient irrigators in the world, and there is no better example of that than the Goulburn and Murray valleys in the member's own electorate. We have seen leading food processors like SPC and Kagome; innovative operators like Kyvalley Dairy exporting liquid milk to Asia; a range of high-value horticulture: apples, pears, stone fruits, grapes, wines. It is the home of Rubicon, the world's leader in efficient irrigation equipment. The Commonwealth has invested, as part of this process, over $1 billion in more efficient irrigation infrastructure in the Murray Goulburn region. The Prime Minister is to be commended at being the instigator, of starting that process of getting better and more efficient irrigation so that we can get a better return back through the farm gate. And we are investing right now in Australia. On Saturday we announced the Duck Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania. We are actually building dams; we are actually building water infrastructure. The $30 million project at Circular Head will provide 5,200 megalitres of high-security water to support dairy production as well as production of crops like potatoes, onions and carrots.

But there is one thing you need for efficient irrigation, and that is affordable power. Whether it is in the Burdekin or whether it is in Victoria, in the Murray Goulburn, or whether it is in Tasmania: if you cannot afford the power to lift the water, then you cannot have an irrigation system. It is interesting to see in the Riverland in South Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill goes down there to kick up a stink about water policy, and all the farmers could tell him was the stink they have got in power policy. They cannot even afford to lift the water. In fact, they said quite clearly to him, 'It's no good talking about water if we can't pump it!'

And where does the instigation of this dilemma come from? It comes from the crazy ideas that the Labor Party have absorbed from the Australian Greens in that triumvirate of trying to make sure, with the Australian Greens and others, that they abide by the wills of Johnston Street and Trafalgar Street and Annadale—the 'angel of Annandale' over there—to try to look after them and then let the whole rest of Australia go down the tubes. What this amounts to is that places such as Woolly Nook Farm are now using diesel power for their packing shed. They are actually having to go off the grid to supply their power. We are seeing Lindsay Point Almonds having to go off the grid to supply their power. We are finding Kingston Estate Wines having to go off the grid to supply their power.

Mr Pyne: Submarines.

Mr JOYCE: The submarines are actually worried about how they are going to—the new submarine development will have to worry about how to get the power. What we have is a policy of the Australian Labor Party—and they will not come to the dispatch box to debate it. They just will not. They have refused to come to the dispatch box to debate power policy, because they are going to stand behind middle Australia's policy, of South Australia's policy, of taking Australia back to the Middle Ages, to live contented in caves living off beetles and nuts. When are the Labor Party going to actually stand behind their own power policy? (Time expired)