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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6595


Senator MINCHIN (Minister for Finance and Administration) (3:13 PM) —I understand Senator O'Brien feels an obligation to try to make the Labor Party relevant in relation to the issue of the drought. With all respect, I suggest it really would be a sad day for Australia if we allow the issue of a drought—one of our most serious droughts we have faced; it is hurting a lot of our primary producers—to descend into partisan politics. It really is quite ridiculous. What farmers and the community least want to see is either the states and the feds arguing about it or the Labor Party and the Liberal Party arguing about it. They want responsible policy. We have a very comprehensive approach to drought relief. I think it is very sad to see Senator O'Brien trying to become relevant by making a fuss about the fact that answers to questions he asked have not arrived when he wanted them to arrive. In relation to the matter that is before the Senate—


Senator O'Brien —Why can't you answer a question on it?


Senator MINCHIN —Do you want to hear an answer or don't you? Your letter of 30 September to me was passed on to the Treasurer's office and, as I said today, you will get your answer by the end of business tomorrow. But you have asked a whole lot of things: what was the total cost of the investment allowance? What was the cost, by state and territory, of the allowance in the last five financial years? How many primary producers and lessors of property to primary producers have gained a benefit under the allowance? How many primary producers and lessors of property to primary producers, by state and territory, have gained a benefit in the last five financial years? And what are the details of any programs that provide tax benefits for the purchase of drought mitigation property by primary producers and lessors of property to primary producers after 1 July 2000?

Senator O'Brien is not used to government. We actually have a lot of responsibilities in government. We do have to get on and run the country. It is more difficult when you have issues like Bali and national security and, indeed, the drought. I would ask Senator O'Brien to take a more sensible and reasonable attitude to these matters. We will indulge your little debate today, Senator O'Brien. I doubt that anybody is actually listening and I doubt that it will make any difference to your standing. We understand that, as an opposition frontbencher, you have got to try and make some headway on the issue. However, what the people want to see is the parliament working together—the states and federal parties and governments working together to have sensible, pragmatic policies in place to mitigate the burden of the drought. No-one can reverse the drought and no-one can change the drought. It is a fact of life. However, we will do all that we sensibly and responsibly can to mitigate that effect by working with the opposition and the states to try to assist our primary producers. To indulge in nitpicking about whether an answer to a whole lot of questions arrives on one day or the next is, I think, a waste of the Senate's time and a waste of your time, Senator O'Brien. We will give you the answers tomorrow.

Question agreed to.