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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1943

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (19:09): While not a farmer myself, I have lived my whole life in a region that is renowned for its rich agricultural diversity. Blair is a regional and rural seat located in South-East Queensland. It is full of areas that are familiar to people these days, some notorious like the Wivenhoe Dam, the Somerset Dam, the Lockyer Creek, the Bremer River and the Brisbane River. It is a beautiful but often dangerous place in South-East Queensland.

Towns such as Toogoolawah are known for producing the nation's best beef. The saleyards are legendary in the Brisbane Valley in South-East Queensland. The meatworks in my electorate at Kilcoy, Dinmore, Churchill and Coominya employ thousands of people and are integral to the success of farming regions west of Ipswich. Around Esk, there is dairy and beef farming. In the lower Brisbane Valley, around Minden, Patrick Estate and Coominya, horticulture is keen. Jimna was built around the forest industry. Coolana and Kilcoy produce gourmet-quality cheeses and olives, while the regions around Marburg and southern rural Ipswich produce wines. This is an area proud of its history of farming, with strong agricultural values.

Our farmers continue to contribute to the economic lifeblood of our region. We have generational farmers in the Ipswich and Somerset regions—families who have helped to build the area and make it what it is today. You can see that from historical documents. You can find located at state schools like Haigslea the names of families that continue down through the generations. Doing mobile offices at agricultural shows in my electorate at Ipswich, Marburg, Rosewood, Lowood, Esk, Kilcoy and Toogoolawah, I can see the pride on farmers' faces when they display their beef cattle or honey and other produce that they have grown on the land. It is a great testimony to their courage and commitment. Many of these farmers have been to hell and back in the last 12 months, with 279 agribusinesses flood affected in the Somerset region.

The export from Australia's farming community, particularly in South-East Queensland in my electorate, is considerable. It contributes to the national wealth of our country and employs literally thousands of people. I was instrumental in securing a $100,000 grant to the Somerset Region Business Alliance to provide advisory services to primary producers and small businesses impacted by the flood. A business expo was successfully run by the SRBA to assist local farmers and small business operators. Thousands of people attended it over a number of days. This was a very successful enterprise and it goes to show the initiative of a federal Labor government committed to the farming and rural sectors. The funding was made possible under the Small Business Advisory Services-National Disaster Assistance program.

The Somerset Region Business Alliance has worked hard to promote local businesspeople, particularly those who work on the land. This is a very challenging time. The high dollar makes it even more difficult. I want to acknowledge the great work of people like Paul Heymans and Deb Ribinskas and others who worked tirelessly to help local businesses in these farming communities remain connected, informed and skilled. The Ipswich Business Enterprise Centre also received $100,000 to help small businesses throughout the Ipswich and West Moreton region. The centre has been providing assistance to businesses from Goodna to Grandchester through to Grantham. Our farmers require training, innovation and skills so that they can deal with the challenges they face—challenges of climate change, food security and global food shortage. I used to represent the Lockyer Valley, so I met with many farmers who were flood affected during my time as their member. I know the challenges they face from the floods that impacted on the Lockyer Valley.

I am proud to see this federal Labor government investing in quality education. One of the great initiatives in my electorate was that undertaken by the Kilcoy State High School, which ensured that science and technology had real relevance to the agricultural industries around it. Last year, I proudly opened the Kilcoy State High School's $1.6 million science centre. You might ask: 'A science centre? Kilcoy is a rural community.' I picked up Kilcoy in the redistribution, and the funding to the school was made possible by a federal Labor government under Building the Education Revolution—opposed by those opposite, sadly. The science centre takes technology out of the classroom and onto the farm. I have been there to see what they grow and produce.

The school's new facility connects the rural areas to the science and technology areas. This school is directly training tomorrow's farmers, offering them Certificate II in Rural Operations, and year 10 students went on an agribusiness excursion last year to the Mackay-Whitsunday region. This is a school blessed by the BER, which was opposed by those opposite, and it is tailoring its needs in a rural setting, equipping students for agricultural careers in the future. For too long the famers and landholders of Ipswich and Somerset were neglected by the coalition, who took their votes and their money and their support for granted. I am proud to be part of a federal Labor government that is investing in regional education and training. People who study in the regions tend to stay in the regions. While developing farmers for the future it is important to make sure that they stay in those regions and contribute to those regions.

It is encouraging to see our universities embedding localism by offering educational opportunities that connect the skills of the local communities in regional and rural areas. Universities in and around my region have developed strong partnerships with local rural communities. This federal Labor government has increased the total regional loading for universities to $249.4 million to help these campuses continue operating. We have committed $265 million to provide 20,500 students in regional areas greater access to the youth allowance to make it easier for them to go to university. I have seen the benefit of that in my area. In the Somerset region, we have dozens and dozens of kids getting youth allowance for the first time. We have invested $176 million in building trade training centres, which help rural as well as urban people. This investment makes a difference to the students in Blair, many of whom travel into Ipswich to get training at wonderful trade training centres, like the trade training centre at St Edmunds in conjunction with Ipswich Grammar School and Ipswich Girls Grammar School, and Woodcrest State College in conjunction with Redbank Plains State High School. The Ipswich Region Trade Training Centre, which will be established in Ipswich itself at Ipswich State High, will have people coming from regional and rural areas. It will have students from Lowood State High, Rosewood State High, Bremer State High and Bundamba State Secondary College. Kids from urban backgrounds and kids from rural backgrounds will be getting training in mechanics, in plumbing and in other skills, and there will be training in rural industries as well.

The Riverview Springfield Trade Training Centre will provide opportunities for students of St Peter Claver College and St Augustine's College at Augustine Heights. It is important to note that kids from rural areas come into Ipswich because that is where they get their secondary education. We are determined to make sure the kids who come from rural backgrounds get quality education. That is why we are investing such an amount of money in universities like the University of Queensland Ipswich campus and the University of Southern Queensland. I note my good friend the member for Oxley and I secured about $49 million for a campus right on the border. The member for Oxley and I lobbied very hard to make sure that that funding came to the University of Southern Queensland. We provided it because we know that kids from rural backgrounds go to that university. We are providing the funding for their tertiary study and we are providing the funding for their secondary study. I want to ensure that kids from farming backgrounds get access to the biggest marketplace in human history, and education is the key.

Our Australian farmers in rural and regional areas will benefit from the kind of assistance we are providing. The NBN is warmly welcomed. I know it has been trialled in parts of my electorate, in the Brisbane Valley. I have seen it being trialled in places, for example at the computer business of Paul Heymans. Our investment in the Ipswich Motorway and the Blacksoil Interchange are critical for farmers in the western corridor as well. I cannot wait for the carbon farming initiative that will benefit people in my electorate. I have spoken to many farmers who are looking forward to having another source of income, and sadly those opposite should hang their heads in shame because once again they are opposing help for farmers.