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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 45


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (3:20 PM) —I rise to speak on Senator Carr's motion to take note of answers. We have been in parliament one week—the first week was taken up by pomp and ceremony and in this second week we are right into the nitty-gritty of the business. We on this side are waiting to see some sort of form from the Labor Party—some sort of spark of interest, some sort of connection between the electorate and the ALP. It is the party that once represented rural Australia. In fact, it was born in rural Australia out of the shearers strike in the 1890s. It has certainly left its past behind. When I first joined the National Party we could go and get a game of cricket at Goondiwindi with the ALP. We used to have a yearly game of cricket with the ALP. Unfortunately, they do not have a team anymore. They have been sidelined because no-one in rural Australia wants to belong to the ALP.

If you sat here for this first week of parliament you could understand why, because since we have been back here this opposition have done only two things. The first is to bag their own leader. He has been called everything from a dead parrot to a mangy dog, and it goes on and on. The second, their other big policy projection, has been: `Let's try to attack the Regional Partnerships program.' I can't see why you are doing this. I can't see who it is impressing, I can't see it getting any votes and I can't see where it is taking you. It is disappointing that the Labor Party cannot even think of these things themselves. They have to depend on an Independent, Mr Windsor, the member for New England, to come up with some ideas so that they can tag along on his shirt tails to get some forward momentum.

The project that is under discussion at the moment started in the early 1990s when the New South Wales government made cuts to the water sharing plan in the Namoi Valley of about 78 per cent, leaving about 22 per cent of the water allocation there. It said that was going to cost the agricultural sector of the valley some $400 million in the life of that water sharing plan. So the New South Wales government put forward a Namoi water sharing plan and tried to come up with some packages that would assist the industry in the Namoi Valley. The package was placed on hold in 2004. The Namoi Valley Structural Adjustment Package was designed to assist the community to adjust. That is the background of the program. It was needed. There had been a 78 per cent cut in water allocation, down to 22 per cent, and independent assessors believed that $400 million was going to be cut out of the economy of the valley, so we decided we would do something.

I said yesterday in a similar debate: when John Anderson became leader of this party he said there were two Australias. One Australia was the cities, where the economy was moving and jobs and job opportunities were plentiful; but in the other, rural and regional Australia, the economy was moving at a different pace. So they put through these regional partnerships to assist the economy, give the economy a leg-up, balance the good times that were going in Australia and try to give rural and regional Australia some assistance. But all we have ever got out of it from the Labor Party is one bucket after the next. You would think the party that has—(Time expired)