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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 132

North Queensland


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:18): To the Deputy Prime Minister: the government is aware that in seven of North Queensland's 100 million hectares there is now a prickly acacia infestation. The north's cattle herd dwindles at 4.5 million, whilst turnoff is only one in six—half of the nation's one in three. Queensland is considering the river ways and grasslands improvement plan. Will the minister consider providing $2.5 million for engineering and construction planning for Hughenden, the first microirrigation scheme in a plan that ultimately increases the north's beef production by $5 billion a year?


Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (14:18): I thank the member for Kennedy for his question. I know that he always likes direct answers, so I will give him one. We are happy to consider that. I think it is only fit and proper that we start working on further irrigation infrastructure throughout this nation. That is why we have put $2 billion towards a concessional loan scheme to assist in construction as well as $500 million towards grants. That $500 million towards grants during the election campaign was no better enunciated than at Rookwood Weir when, with the Prime Minister, we put $130 million on the table to start the advancement of that community. If we get that project through—and we are working with the state government now in a bipartisan way to try and make sure that we do—that will be an extra over 2,000 jobs a year and an extra billion dollars a year in income for that area. It goes to show you the direct correlation between water infrastructure and the benefit to that community. I know the people of Rockhampton were very appreciative of that. I have the member here today in the chamber. There are so many irrigation schemes that have been looked at through Queensland. We have 14 studies that we have now committed to in Queensland all the way from the south of the state from Emu Swamp right up into the member for Kennedy's neck of the woods.

We also understand the concern he brings forward about prickly acacia, and that is why we have a substantive amount of money that is on the table—$100 million in one section—towards research and development grants. Part of that is to look at the biosecurity measures. The member would be aware that we are already looking at some controls of biosecurity issues in that area. I think one of our great successes lately has been dealing with Panama race 4 up on the Atherton Tableland and making sure we get on top of that for the banana industry, which is worth about $600 million a year. This is the practical delivery of practical outcomes so that we can stand behind a beef industry, a banana industry and an agricultural industry—agricultural industries which are now our second biggest exports after iron ore.

We are also very aware that within the beef industry—and why it is so important—we currently have record beef prices. They have never, ever been higher. This is because we stand behind programs such as the live cattle trade, which are vitally important to the member for Kennedy's area. We were happy to announce just the other day the reopening of the live cattle trade into Japan, because that is also another vital component of making sure that we get the best returns back through the farm gate. We understand the vagaries of the climate; we understand what the drought has done; but for those in production now, especially in the cattle industries, they have never, ever seen better times in their lives than they have seen under a coalition government.