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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6312

Mr BROAD (Mallee) (17:49): I actually believe in the agricultural industry, and I'm not going to talk it down. I actually see farmers out there making a lot of money. Profit is actually not a 'bad word' in the agricultural sector. I've farmed through droughts. I bought my farm after shearing, having saved a deposit at 22 and borrowed $400,000. It took a bit of convincing for the bank to lend me the money. Can I also point out that I'd saved a heap of money, and, when I bought my first farm, all that money that I saved went in stamp duty to the Victorian government. So, when people talk about farming, it's very easy to be abstract and claim family heritage, but it's a very different thing to live it. It's a very different thing to actually go through a drought.

I do want to say that the first thing you can do to help the farming sector is keep out of their way. Let them run their businesses. Let them expand. Let them do the best they can. Most farmers I talk to would rather the government does very little except build decent roads and create better market opportunities. Do you know that the one thing that has helped our agriculture more than anything is the market opportunities? I'll explain that. Whilst those on the other side might scoff, it would be interesting for them to listen to this. In 1992 we were exporting to 12 countries with sheepmeat. When we couldn't find a market, when things were difficult, we finished up having to shoot sheep. I've done it, and it's very, very disheartening. All through the 'hat-trick drought' years, in 2006, 2007 and 2008, we were still able to sell sheep for very good money, and the reason was that we had opened the market opportunities to 96 countries with sheepmeat. And it is a combination of strong governments on both sides who pushed very hard to try and keep market access open.

I want to touch on this, because this leads into a bit of the discussion going on in Western Australia at the moment, where there are 60,000 sheep sitting in a port. There are some who would seek to ban live exports. In contrast, when I was in Ethiopia three weeks ago, we met with the Ethiopian foreign minister, and we were trying to get airfreight links between the capital of Ethiopia and Perth. People ask, 'How are these two issues related?' I want to run through it because it's very, very relevant. The reason live exports have dropped significantly in Victoria and the other east coast states is that, when you slaughter a sheep now, there is greater utilisation of the carcass. The hearts, the livers and those sorts of things are airfreighted, usually in the body of an Emirates airlines plane, to the Middle East, and, because of that, we're able to get a better market. In contrast, I have been trying to open up market opportunities so we have better airfreight links out of Perth, which could develop the domestic market in Perth. The Labor Party, under Joel, is pushing to put in a complete ban and shut that down.

That is the contrast: opening up those market opportunities made the difference. That is the one thing that helped. More than farm household support, more than any rate subsidy, what helped farmers throughout that dry time was the market opportunities. If I look at the prosperity that is currently being experienced across the Wimmera Mallee, it is because of the free trade agreements with China, with Korea—

An honourable member: It's because we got rain.

Mr BROAD: Well, it hasn't rained in my patch yet; it's rained in the southern part. But we got Korea, China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Japan, and those free trade agreements have opened up greater opportunities. So to say the government has done nothing in this space is a very short-term view of what the role of the federal government is, which is to ensure our biosecurity, ensure we minimise the cost of getting our products to the market and ensure we open up market opportunities. In doing those things, you ultimately create wealth for rural communities and wealth for farmers. There are times when you have difficult seasonal conditions, and I think it is fair and reasonable that there should be farm household support. Essentially, a person would normally receive some Centrelink benefits if they were unemployed. In this case, a person has a land asset, but that land asset hasn't earned anything. Even though they've got an asset, they haven't earned anything, so they too are entitled to a Centrelink benefit to keep the groceries on table. It's a very logical thing.

There are things that government should do. We should simmer down a little bit, stop talking down the agricultural industry, stop yelling abuse at one another and think about what actually worked in the droughts and what helped us, which was opening up market opportunities, removing inhibitors of freight and saying that we believed agriculture had a strong future.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): Before I call on the next speaker, I once again remind the chamber to refer to members by their correct titles. I indicate that, if it does happen in a future contribution, I will need to ask you to restate it.