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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6310

Mr JOYCE (New England) (17:39): I think it's really important, having just heard from the Labor Party, that we summarise what they had to say. What they had to say to the people on the land was: 'Tough luck. We've got nothing for you. Tough luck.' They talk about their belief that there's ongoing resilience, that there is something anathema about trying to help people out in a tough situation. Every day the commuters in Sydney are helped out to the extent that we cover about 30 per cent of their costs from the tickets that we sell them, but we believe we should do that to keep cars off the road because we believe it is a public good. Well, it's also a public good to keep farmers on the land. It is definitely a public good to keep farmers on the land.

I'm proud of what our government has done with the Regional Investment Corporation, a multibillion dollar organisation set up to assist people on the land. I think that shows that we actually do have a vision for people on the land—like when we changed the criteria for farm household allowance. When I got the portfolio, there was only, I think, about 350 people who got farm household allowance. By the time we had finished, it was around about 6,000 people that had access to it. That's because we changed the criteria. It's like why the concessional loans were hardly ever given out by the Labor Party. I looked at the figures today and it's getting to about $850 million that we've given out in concessional loans.

Yes, there is always more we can do. I commend the government for extending farm household allowance, because it basically keeps dignity in the house, and it keeps the wolves from the door, by allowing them the money to keep up with the chemist bill, keep up with basic grocery items, and keep dignity in that house. That is what we are supposed to do. I don't quite know what the Labor Party was offering. I've never heard them go to the dispatch box and offer what they are going to give people in a time of drought. I listen to their budget speeches and I can never hear them talk about people on the land. I can never hear what their vision is for people on the land. What I can say is that the extension—and it's an uncapped scheme—to farm household allowance allows further dignity.

But there is more that not only the federal government can do—we should always be driving for what they can do—but also state governments. Freight subsidies have overwhelmingly been something the state governments have been supposed to cover. Freight subsidies are supposed to be covered by state governments. I noted what the New South Wales state government has done. I commend them for their $50,000 seven-year interest-free loan. I did look at the criteria. I do think it's going to be very hard for some people to get eligibility for it. But really their role is in freight subsidies.

Of course, the only thing that fixes droughts in the end is rain. If we say that what we are going to do is devise policies that somehow make it rain in Australia, then I'm going to be the first one to vote for that. By God, I will vote for that one. But I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think there is a policy that makes it rain. I think there is a policy that assists people in drought. And drought deals with the vagaries of the climate, and that's why farming businesses are different. If you had other businesses in town and said, 'This corner shop will work very well when it rains and not very well when it doesn't', I think people would say that is a pretty precarious business. But we need people on the land, because people on the land produce the primary source of wealth, which from that point goes forward and becomes a secondary source of wealth, and then a tertiary form of wealth.

We are a nation that makes so much of our wealth from what goes on the ground and what comes out of the ground. We don’t have Toyotas and we don't have people manufacturing televisions. Overwhelmingly, our primary source of wealth and the big export earners come from what is going on the ground and what comes out of the ground. Therefore, it is in our national interest to keep those people on the land.

I want to make sure that we have a nation where farming families, Australian farming families, are the overwhelming owners of the Australian asset. I don't want to live in a world where it is one big corporate farm owned by somebody overseas. I don't. I want to make sure we keep that national goal. I don't know what economic theorem that says I ascribe to, but I think it ascribes to a theorem and a belief in our country. Just like we need Australian families, mums and dads, who are the overwhelming owners of the suburban house on the suburban street, we must always be prescribing policy that keeps mums and dads as the overwhelming owners of the Australian rural asset. That is probably what drove me into politics, what drove the member for Mallee into politics and what drove the member for McMillan into politics. I don't think that vision is old-fashioned. I think that issue will reside with the coalition as long as we have people who have come from the land.