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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1071


Mr GEE (CalareAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (16:03): I rise to draw the House's attention to the important work that is happening on the part of this government in drought relief. The devastating effects of this drought and dealing with this drought is the No. 1 priority for the communities of my electorate. I was really heartened by the visit to the region recently by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator McKenzie and the member for Parkes, as well as a number of state MPs. It highlights the importance of this issue and the driving purpose of this government to deal with the devastating effects of drought in this region.

This week, in terms of priorities, I think we saw it writ large in the passing of the Future Drought Fund Bill and how important that will be to country communities. How disappointing it was that, in the face of what is a national emergency, the opposition chose to play politics with it right until the end—the very end! There can be no more important priority than dealing with the fallout from the drought. It is affecting farmers. It's having a devastating impact at the farm gate. But the impact of drought is also being felt in our country communities. I've spoken to constituents in the electorate of Calare who are running small businesses, and some of them haven't had a decent income for two or three years now. They are burning through retirement savings just to keep open the doors of their businesses. I think that's one of the reasons why our communities were so pleased to see key decision-makers putting this issue front and centre, making sure that dealing with the devastating impacts of this drought was one of the key purposes, one of the key drivers, of this government.

I know the Drought Communities Program has been very well received right across the central west. I've called in this House many times for drought relief to be ramped up as conditions worsen. I've been very pleased that the call has been answered, particularly with respect to the Drought Communities Program. I know, for example, Bathurst Regional Council has submitted about 14 projects, which are currently being assessed.

Mr Chester interjecting

Mr GEE: I thank the minister for his interjection. I will move on to Dixons Long Point shortly. My point is that, as the conditions have worsened in this drought, the response has been ramped up. We now have the biggest drought relief effort in Australia's history.

Mr Fitzgibbon: No, you haven't. That's just not true.

Mr GEE: We have got the biggest drought relief effort in Australia's history, and you have tried to sabotage it at every turn. It's been a disgraceful display, and I think farmers across Australia were appalled at the petty politics played by the member for Hunter, who had his face slapped badly at the last election. What's your margin, Member for Hunter? It's three per cent. It was a massive drop. You were punished for selling out the people of country Australia.

I note that infrastructure is also a key priority of this government in this term. The Deputy Prime Minister has made it very clear through the dozens of questions—if you could call them that—that were put to him in question time this week about the many great things that are happening in infrastructure right across Australia. In my own part of the world, Dixons Long Point, the crossing over of the Macquarie River between Orange and Mudgee, is a priority. I note that Deputy Speaker Hogan was out there recently, about three weeks ago, inspecting the site. We've been progressing that project. I had discussions with the department and Mid-Western Regional Council just this morning about how that project can be progressed and how we can get the money out the door, because this government is all about delivery, unlike those opposite, who continue to play petty politics on matters of public importance when legislation is passing through this House. They've been calling quorums all day. I think it shows a very petty approach and shows that they are sinking to the lowest common denominator. We saw that in question time today. This government is getting things done. We have a clear purpose and we are driving ahead, unlike those opposite, who have recorded the lowest primary vote in 100 years.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Hunter on a point of order.

Mr Fitzgibbon: I think the member for Calare should clarify his own political margin in his own seat, which I understand fell dramatically at the last election.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I don't think that's a point of order.