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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8534

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (18:50): I rise to speak to this motion. One might ask why an outer suburban MP who represents a large growth-belt seat with lots of young families shifting into the area, even though his new seat does take in farmland, would speak on a motion moved by the member for Calare about drought in New South Wales and in some areas of Queensland, although there are some areas of Victoria that are drought affected as well. The reason that I'm speaking on this matter tonight is two exceptional people in the suburb of Doveton: Ruth Murray and Jenny Colvin, who have seen the plight of farmers and heard the tales of hardship and devastation suffered by those farmers experiencing drought, particularly in New South Wales. They are two women with not much money—Doveton is a working class area—who are tremendously community minded and who decided to do their bit to assist the farmers in need.

Why did Ruth and Jenny from Doveton get involved in a fundraiser that will be held in October? I'll tell you why. The media has done a good job of late talking about drought. I lived on a cattle station in Kalgoorlie when I was younger, so I know about arid countryside. This is a very serious drought. Some are saying the drought in New South Wales is worse than the one in 1965. For those who are watching in the non-farm areas in my constituency, I will reflect on a discussion reported in an article about the effects of drought in The Guardian, which quotes a doctor based in Tamworth. I mention this because this is what Ruth and Jenny saw and what motivated them to take action. The quote is from Dr Alison Harris, who is based in Tamworth. She said:

I don’t depend directly on the land for my livelihood but many of our patients do, and the farmers and their families are struggling.

We live 10km out of Tamworth. Our garden is dying, we have no grass except the little bit watered by the grey water outflow. Everything is dusty and so dry. I have been buying water for most of the last year, every month another truckload.

Normally you don’t see roos except at dawn and dusk—now we see them any time of the day, they have come out of the hills and are in the paddocks, eating the last of the tall dead grass … They are even coming into town, eating any grass or plants they can find. They are desperate.

Even the indigenous trees are dying. Driving in through the pass in the hills behind Tamworth, the gums on the ridgelines are starting to die—dead leaves, dead branches on almost every tree.

There are no frogs—the last six months we have hardly heard any frogs at all.

We are losing things that are precious to us - the breed lines for the farmers, the special trees and plants in our gardens and parks, the lovely green lawns we used to have. It seems so long since we have seen green grass, since we have heard rain on the metal roof. It is a hard slog, minimising water use, shuffling buckets of water out to the remaining treasured plants, knowing that it may all be useless unless the rain comes.

And yet, on the mainstream news bulletins, it is as if we don’t exist on the other side of the sandstone curtain. Weather reporters blab on about lovely clear skies and sunny weather as if the cities were all that mattered. But how will the people in the cities eat if the country isn’t producing food for lack of water?

Good people like Ruth and Jenny, who have been community icons in Doveton, decided to do something about it. These little Aussie battlers with very little money decided to create a community event at the John Pandazopoulos Hall on 7 October this year. Because Jenny had a connection from her time singing in a band called Country Pride, a lot of musicians from all over Australia are coming to Doveton on 7 October to sing, free of charge, to do their bit. It says a lot about the quintessential Australian character that, when people know the extent of the suffering of our farming community, they don't play politics; they do what Australians do in a time of crisis—pull together and do their bit. They have no money, but by dint of their will and commitment to their community they have encouraged people from all over the country to come to the John Pandazopoulos Hall on 7 October to play music for about five hours to raise money to send to the farmers in need. That says a lot about Ruth Murray and Jenny Colvin but also a lot about our great country. Let's hope that small dint will do something to help those farmers that have been devastated by the drought.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 18 : 56