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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8013

Rural and Regional Services


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:35): My question is also for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister please outline to the Senate what support the government provides to Australian agriculture, particularly in Northern Australia, and what actions the government should take—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Crossin, resume your seat. When there is silence we will proceed, if you want to chew up question time. Senator Crossin, continue.

Senator CROSSIN: Could the minister outline to the Senate what support the government provides to Australian agriculture and what actions the government should take to prepare the nation for the future, including our participation through the Asian century?




Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:36): I thank Senator Crossin for her continued interest in public policy in agriculture, unlike those opposite. The Gillard government is a strong supporter of Northern Australia. I have met with and support local industry about the issues that matter to them. One example is the AACo pastoral proposal for an abattoir in the Northern Territory. The government has held discussions with AACo and the Northern Territory government about this proposal and through the Northern Australian Ministerial Forum and in consultation with the industry, the Gillard government is supporting the northern jurisdiction in developing a comprehensive beef strategy for Northern Australia. This strategy has included examining the feasibility of an abattoir facility in Northern Australia. The Northern Australian beef strategy is an element of Northern Australian Sustainable Futures program, a Labor election commitment.

The government has also provided information to AACo on programs it could apply to for funding. The government has an open-door policy in dealing with industry. But I was surprised to read this morning that having an open door to the north is a rare thing for those opposite. In Queensland Country Life today, I read that when AACo went to speak to the Liberals about the project, they referred them off to the Nationals. The door from the Liberals was shut in their face. That is the Liberal approach to dealing with industry: shut in their face. AACo goes on to talk about the dangers of this approach. I quote: 'If the coalition is going to rely on the Nationals to develop Australian agricultural policy, they must demonstrate they are mature enough to lead the debate and policy development.' But at the moment the coalition has a real problem, because you can comfortably say that the Nationals are not demonstrating those qualities at all. AACo said, 'The Nationals do not fully understand the various demands— (Time expired)


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of the importance of the ongoing support to Australian agricultural industries and what other issues are important for the government to support, particularly in agriculture?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:39): I thank Senator Crossin for her continued interest in agriculture in Northern Australia. It is to have a coherent and consistent agricultural policy that supports our producers and processors and encourages trade and regional jobs—but we are not seeing that from those opposite. For months now, I have been saying: the Nationals are the doormats to the Liberals. But maybe I have been wrong. I have discovered that the monkeys have been running the zoo all along! Time and time again lately, we are seeing that Senator Joyce is calling the shots. On wheat they are shamelessly divided and undermining their leader. You are undermining your leader!

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order as the former chairman of the Northern Development Taskforce. When the government changed, the government put a whole lot of people in there who were 'no can do' people instead of 'can do' people and it was driven by us—

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order. You know it is not a point of order. That is a debating point.

Senator LUDWIG: I was saying: on wheat they are shamelessly divided, and it is a case where the Liberals are now being done over by the doormats. On foreign investment—this is where I was wrong—they have undermined investment in regional Australia and the doormats have done over— (Time expired)





Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:41): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Finally, I would like to know: what are the risks to the government's commitment to supporting Australian agriculture?

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. In answer to the question, the only threat to agriculture in Australia is that there is not one person on the other side who lives in rural Australia!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Heffernan, there is no point of order. Resume your seat. That is a point of argument. If people wish to debate the issue, the time to do it is after 3 o'clock.




Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:42): I thank Senator Crossin for her continued interest in this area. If you look at the biggest risk to Australian agriculture, it is Mr Abbott being unable to settle on one policy without the doormats from the Nationals flipping the Liberals. It is a risk because he is outsourcing his leadership to Senator Joyce. The opposition are at risk because they have only one trick: aggressiveness and negativity. That is the only policy you have got. You harp on and harp on about it, but, on illegal logging, the doormats have flipped you again. You had a very sensible policy. I see Senator Colbeck looking down, because you had a sensible policy on illegal logging in 2010. You flipped on that one, you flipped on wheat, you flipped on foreign investment, and— (Time expired)