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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1937

Mr LYONS (Bass) (18:40): I rise tonight to support the motion of the member for Maranoa, Bruce Scott, in recognising the vital contribution that farmers around Australia make to our society, to our economy and to our way of life. To celebrate Australian farmers for the 2012 calendar year is testament to the valuable contribution that farmers make. Without farmers, Australia would not experience the wonderful standard of living with quality, fresh locally-grown produce that we enjoy. Farmers provide us with so many quality items: fresh vegetables, meat, dairy, grain, wool, eggs, fish, cotton and timber items. I feel that all too often people consume their meals without a thought for those tireless workers—the farmers—who work the land to grow and harvest the wonderful produce that we find on supermarket shelves, in fruit and vegetable shops and in the butcher shops.

I recently had the pleasure of welcoming the federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, and the Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry and member for Lyons, the Hon. Dick Adams, to my electorate for a tour of the north-east region of the state. This area is prime farmland, home to numerous dairies and cropping farms. The group toured the north-east, visiting the Headquarters Road Dam, the Razz Rhubarb farm and Bridestowe lavender farm.

The fantastic potential of the north-east of Tasmania is largely due to, and certainly to be improved on, the four irrigation projects that we discussed—one being the finished Headquarters Road dam and another that is near completion. Another topic of discussion was the Scottsdale DSTO joining the CSIRO and the University of Tasmania to value-add to the products being produced in the north-east. I was particularly impressed to see the joint venture between Razz Rhubarb and Bridestowe Lavender Estate to produce lavender and rhubarb jam—an example of the innovation and creativity of the farming region. Razz Rhubarb is run by Jerrod Nichols, the son of Maureen, former manager of North East Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Scottsdale. He is an impressive, innovative representative of farming in my electorate of Bass. Jerrod farms rhubarb along with other products, including squash, poppies, potatoes and pyrethrum. He has wonderful fresh products and by working with the Bridestowe lavender farm is creating other avenues for using rhubarb, including lavender and rhubarb jam.

Another product produced in the north-east is Rhu Bru, the most refreshing of drinks. If you have not had Rhu Bru you are really missing out. It is a great drink—fantastic. You should go to Scottsdale and buy some Rhu Bru. Jerrod is keen to promote quality Tasmanian products not only to the nation but also to export markets. He has a great vision and one that needs to be further encouraged to promote the great Tasmanian produce. He places great emphasis on the importance of fresh produce, not cheaply imported canned or frozen products. I was pleased to bring the minister, the parliamentary secretary and the chair of the committee to this electorate for them to witness firsthand the high level of innovation and potential that the region has. With good soils, reliable rainfall and available water, there is great potential for further development in this region. Farmers have always been innovators and adaptors of new technology and have had to, and are willing to continue to, endure the harsh and unpredictable elements that Mother Nature throws at them. Farmers endure all of the elements—droughts, floods and fires—and more of these elements can result in bumper crops or massive heartbreaking devastation. But farming life goes on, and it is at times like these, when you see the farming communities rally together to beat adversity, that you note the terrific community spirit in these communities that pulls them together. It is a terrific example of the mateship that is so often referred to as being an important element of Australian society. It is a pity that manufacturing and processing of produce is now almost exclusively controlled internationally, resulting in farmers becoming price takers with little bargaining power in the selling of their produce. This does not lead to efficiency, nor does it allow for improved quality of products. The trouble is that the international processors tend to go for price rather than quality, which can affect farmers and put them in a difficult economic position.

To help rectify this and to support Aussie farmers, I encourage all Australians to buy locally, to buy Australian products, because if we do not there will not be Australian farmers of our fresh local produce that we all enjoy so very much. We are beginning to see too many cheap vegetable imports. Australians need to ensure that when they are purchasing items from their supermarket they are purchasing Australian-grown products, not those from our overseas counterparts. Even though they may be cheaper in price, we do need to buy locally and we do need to encourage others to buy locally.

We need to educate our children about farmers and their vital role in society. With 2012 being the Australian Year of the Farmer, there is no better time for this to happen. I have heard stories about children not understanding where milk actually comes from. It is important that they do know and they understand what farmers do and contribute to society. Let us start educating our children and educating our communities to support farmers and recognise exactly what they do for our nation. They provide fresh produce and products for everyone to enjoy. There is no better way to enjoy vegetables than to eat them fresh, straight from the farm to your plate.

Farming is a special way of life for so many around Australia. Some farms are handed down over generations. Other people have bought into farming. As a nation we need to encourage new people into farming. The exciting career options for young people in the agricultural sector need to be constantly highlighted to ensure that our farming communities remain strong and resilient into the future. We need to support our farmers into the future, to support local projects, to buy Australian produce, thus supporting our Aussie farmers. Our farmers are the providers and without them we would not have the fantastic fresh produce that we have today. I encourage members of this House, all electorates and all Australians to recognise, as the member for Maranoa has said, the 'vital role that Australian farming families and their industries play in keeping our nation fed, clothed and sheltered' and the wonderful contribution of all farmers in our great country, to make our economy great in this, the Year of the Farmer.