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Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Page: 3644


Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (12:04): I want to thank the member for Hunter and the member for Brand for their thoughtful contributions. Seventy per cent of our agriculture is exported. It's an incredibly important industry in our nation, and it's obviously one where we can do better if we have the political will to follow the advice and make the resources available. We can have a bright future in this nation with ag if we're serious about it.

Hemp is an environmentally sustainable and versatile crop. It uses relatively low levels of water, which is incredibly important in this day and age—and, for that reason, it will be increasingly important into the future. The uses for industrial hemp range all the way from textiles to building materials and cosmetics, to name just a few. The hemp industry has great potential in regional areas, including in the north of Australia, where I'm from—the Northern Territory. This bill, the Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020, will amend the definition of 'goods' by the Export Control Act to include narcotic goods, supporting legitimate exports of narcotic goods such as medicinal cannabis and low-THC hemp products, which require government certification for the import requirements of some overseas countries. The amendments will remove unintended regulatory barriers imposed on Australia's exports, supporting trade and growth of our nation's export markets for those low-THC hemp and medicinal cannabis industries.

Hemp is an excellent crop, as I said, for northern Australia. The Northern Territory Labor government continues to open up new opportunities for our ag sector in the north with the commencement of the Hemp Industry Act (NT) last month. The Northern Territory now has the legislative framework for the regulation of low-THC cannabis species, enabling a fibre and grain industry and a viable seed industry. Establishing a hemp sector in the Territory will facilitate investment and long-term local jobs in the north and will allow us to capitalise on the emerging domestic and international market opportunities that we all know are there.

It's very exciting news, and the Territory has a competitive advantage in this industrial hemp market in Australia. In the NT, we have the potential to produce viable seed via a dry-season crop and then supply it to the rest of Australia for summer planting. The NT Farmers Association, under the leadership of CEO Paul Burke, is currently working to build a consortium to trial broadacre hemp production—testing hemp varieties on different soils, the water-use element and also looking at those potential markets.

I must say the Northern Territory government is doing a fantastic job supporting NT farmers and the agriculture sector in general, which is a significant employer in the Northern Territory. What we now need is for the federal government to start investing in the Northern Territory. Now, more than ever, developing a resilient, diverse and strong northern Australian economy is critical to Australia's future security and prosperity. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have had seven years but, disappointingly, are more consumed with infighting than prioritising assistance to regional and rural Australians.

Rural and regional Australia is absolutely critical to the wellbeing and economic prosperity of our nation. Federal Labor has supported the government's northern Australia agenda, and it is important that work continues to implement it. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, or the NAIF, held great potential to play a key role in unlocking large-scale growth in agricultural activity. We were all excited five or so years ago to hear about the $5 billion fund that was going to boost the north. It was going to inject investment dollars into projects throughout the north, but it's fair to say that it has been quite constipated and slow in delivery since its inception.

An honourable member: It has delivered nothing.

Mr GOSLING: Well, that's something that I hope changes with the new minister. We've seen a very small element of that NAIF investment in Humpty Doo Barramundi, for example. That did assist the farm to expand, and it is going from strength to strength. It's one very small example. There are still billions of dollars left, and we really hope that everything possible can be done for the NAIF to be deployed to support industries, particularly during and after the COVID crisis. Untold damage has been done to our economy. There are billions of dollars there in the NAIF, so let's get it cracking.

There have been some positive conversations with the new minister for northern Australia in terms of fuel security and fuel storage for the north, which is in the national interest. I won't go into that in detail now. It will suffice to say that the federal government should consider things like deferrals of interest on existing NAIF projects. It should consider an interest holiday, as some call it, for any project approved in the next 12 months. It should invest in the proponents out there that are taking a risk, that are really trying to grow the north, because our nation needs it.

The degree to which northern Australia's full economic potential is realised is primarily dependent on its ability to secure investment to construct that enabling economic and social infrastructure, and the federal government's role in this is absolutely crucial. I'm a member of this House's Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources. I had the pleasure of hosting the committee in Darwin earlier this year as part of the committee's inquiry into growing Australian agriculture to $100 billion by 2030. I'm grateful that the committee made the trip up to Darwin, particularly as a lot of people were getting very nervous about COVID. I think we were perhaps the last delegation or the last visit to be out there in the regions of Australia before it all closed down. It was a good visit.

It was great to hear from Paul Burke and others about the enormous potential of northern Australian agriculture and aquaculture. Of course, potential is one thing; putting real political capital and dollars behind those people in northern Australia who are trying to develop the north for the good of our nation is another thing, and we hope to more see more of it. It was great to take the committee members to the cattle yards at Berrimah. We were going to make it down to a cattle station, but, because of COVID, it was cut short. But we did visit the cattle yards at Berrimah, where the cattle are trucked in to and kept, prior to sailing to ports in Indonesia and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific.

It is important that members of this House can see this industry at work. There is no doubt that, in terms of animal welfare, the live cattle industry has improved by miles in recent years. But what I would like to know is: why oh why would the federal government be now appealing the High Court's decision that said that those families and those companies out on the land were so badly affected by the snap ban? What do you not get? This matter is still subject to legal proceedings, and of course the government should always pursue what's in the national interest. It is clear that at that time some form of action was necessary, but the way that it happened, the snap ban, had a massively detrimental effect on pastoral companies and families, and they deserve to be compensated.

It also caused a massively detrimental effect to our relationship with Indonesia, so I would say to the government, as a Northern Territory representative, that enough damage has been done. It does not give us in the Northern Territory, and in northern Australia in general, much assurance that the federal government really understands not only the effect that that snap ban had on the live cattle industry, for example, but also the detrimental effect that unfulfilled promises of investment have on the livelihoods of Northern Territorians and other northern Australians.

We have rocks, crops and volts: rocks, the mining industry; crops, like the hemp industry that we're talking about today; and volts of energy that are going to be taken from the sun and converted into dispatchable electrical power. The biggest solar farm in the world will be built in the Northern Territory and will provide power to the Darwin grid. We'll grow manufacturing industry out of that. We'll also help our neighbours by providing large-scale renewable energy via undersea cable to places like Indonesia and Singapore. We've got heaps of land, and apparently we've got heaps of sun. So put those things together and it's not rocket science—rocks, crops and volts. We in the Territory know that so much more is possible in agriculture, in mining and in energy, and we will develop these industries with Aboriginal Territorians, who make up 30 per cent of the population in the Northern Territory.

We will see soon in this House, when a private member's bill enters the Senate tomorrow, whether the Prime Minister shares a vision of northern Australia, and the Northern Territory in particular, being important in our country and of Territorians and their rights to representation being important. That private member's bill in the Senate simply calls for the guaranteeing of two House of Reps seats for the Northern Territory. I'm encouraged that members of the Nationals political party are supportive of us not having half of our representation taken away, because, regardless of who holds those two House of Reps seats, we in the Northern Territory shouldn't be having our representation in this place halved. So we will see if the Prime Minister and the Nationals members of this place share that belief in the Northern Territory and in the north.

This legislation is a step forward. The NT government's hemp legislation is a step forward. So I encourage us all to keep stepping forward together. Let's walk forward together. With a bit of investment, the north will continue to provide an awesome return on investment for our nation, not only for the security of our nation but for the prosperity of our nation.