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Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Page: 14037


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response) (09:47): After 14 long months, we hear the voice of the Labor opposition agriculture spokesman. Never have I been asked, in question time, a question from the member for Hunter. Being the Labor spokesman for agriculture is a bit like being a labrador on the family farm: you're all cute and cuddly but you really have no purpose.

You don't take agriculture seriously. You know very well that you walked in here to try to politicise something because you've been left behind, you've been left at the gate. You know full well that we've already taken the steps to start a mandatory code of conduct. In fact, when the ACCC report that you're talking about came back, on 30 April, I consulted ADF. I understand you consulted ADF yesterday but didn't tell them about this little stunt, which is a bit of a shock to them, as I understand it. When I met with ADF, I said, 'I want the industry to tell me whether it wants a mandatory code.' The ACCC report came back on 30 April. They kept going and going and going, and it got to August. It got to the point where it had taken too long. I called ADF in and said, 'You've got two weeks to give me the direction as to whether you want a mandatory code, or we're going to have to make one for you.' To their credit, they stood up. They engaged with their membership and they came back to me two weeks later and asked for a mandatory code. So we have started that process and we are now at the end of the consultation.

This is about not rushing into it, with unintended consequences. We want to make sure we get this right. What the member for Hunter doesn't understand, which he should be embarrassed by, is that the reason it has to push out into 2020 is that we have to fall into line with current contract and production cycles. This is the danger of having somebody who doesn't understand the intricacies of production systems as the shadow agricultural spokesman. This is the danger of having someone who wants to grandstand rather than look after the farmers of regional and rural Australia as the shadow agricultural spokesman.

The dairy industry is doing it tough. In fact, in my own electorate, I've gone from having over 35 dairy farmers down to 15, and that's the result of the actions of our supermarkets. They've put in place a cap on the price of milk. They've made sure that the ceiling has been put at $1 a litre. I've called them out on that, and I'm proud to say that I've called them out on that. Every corporate citizen has a responsibility to have a sustainable industry that supports them and underlines their supply. That's why I've called them out. If the member for Hunter is upset by that, I'm sorry, but he's out of touch. He might have been here for 23 years. I grant you, I've only been here for 2½ years, but I think I'm a little bit more in touch with real people because I haven't been tainted by this place for 23 years.

Nonetheless, it's important that we get results, so we're acting on the mandatory code. The member for Hunter talked about the ACCC report, saying that we need to put in place a floor price. Let me give the member for Hunter a lesson on what the ACCC report came back with. It did not say anything about a floor price. The ACCC has never asked for a floor price on dairy. To come in here and say, 'Let's go and engage the ACCC to go back on a review they've already undertaken,' shows that their proposed motion has no substance. It is just about the last gasping days of the member for Hunter trying to get some attention. And, I've got to say, this is the first time I've seen a crowd behind him come to hear him talk.

It's important to make sure we get the mandatory code of conduct done and that we run it in a sustainable way—by putting in place a regulatory impact statement to ensure there are no unintended consequences. What the member for Hunter also needs to understand is that the dairy industry is a very geographically specific industry. You've got to understand that the industry in Victoria is different to that in New South Wales and Queensland and WA and South Australia. So we need to make sure that we do this in a sensible way.

Ms Rishworth: You've still got five minutes!

An opposition member interjecting—

Mr LITTLEPROUD: If you want to extend, I'm happy to keep going. The reality is that this is what due process should look like—that is, making sure that there aren't any undue impacts on the industry right across it. That's what we've done. We've been calm, sensible and decisive. We've let industry tell us what they want. They came back and told us. It took them time, but we got them there. That's what good governments should do.

An opposition member interjecting—

Mr LITTLEPROUD: Well, you're not listening. The reality is we're also supporting our farmers. When they talk about the returns that our farmers are getting, let me tell you: we've taken an agriculture industry from $30 billion to $60 billion in the last eight years. Do you know how we did that? It's the trade agreements that we put in place. We took off the tinfoil hat that those opposite are wearing. Every time we put a trade agreement up, those opposite tried to slaughter it. Trade agreements are good for this country. We are a nation of 25 million people but we produce enough food for 75 million people. If we don't engage the world, if we don't embrace the world in free trade, then we won't have regional and rural communities—communities that I live in, people that I represent, people that I see every day. The opportunities that the free trade agreements provide are putting money back into their pockets and back into the pockets of our regional communities. These are the sorts of actions that we put in place with the trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China and with the TPP-11, of which those opposite said, 'No, don't bother about it; it's never going to be done.' Lo and behold, we've done it.

Now we've also made an even greater investment in trade. In the last budget, we delivered an extra $51 million to create an additional six agricultural councillor positions to complement the 16 that are already in place, to make sure we get market access for all those commodities, particularly for dairy. We're making sure we get market access commodity by commodity. We're breaking it down and putting in place those people that can have that government-to-government relationship we need to ensure that we get access and take advantage of the trade agreements that we've put in place.

The member for Hunter talks about climate change. Well, let me say that every year this government has invested over $300 million into research and development around giving our farmers the tools, the science and the technology to be able to adapt to a changing climate. We've done it. The climate has been changing since we first put a till in the soil. As primary producers, we continue to adapt and we're adapting better than anyone else. Those investments have made sure that we have, as primary producers, the tools we need to make returns. I'm proud to say that, for the first time, as the national agriculture minister, at the last ministerial council I brought together all the states to have a coordinated approach so that all our research and development—the research and development the states are doing and that we're doing—is coordinated to make sure that we get better bang for our buck.

The member for Hunter wants to cherrypick on points but really hasn't gone into the substance. If he wants to become the agriculture minister, he needs to understand these, because there is a responsibility to those regional and rural Australians, those people, those primary producers out there, particularly those dairy farmers that have done it tough and that we've seen hurt. We've seen the significant reduction from around 8½ thousand to 6,000. We had to act and we did. We acted with industry and we will continue to act. There are other pieces of legislation that we will continue to work through to make sure. And we talked to the dairy farmers.

Dr Mike Kelly interjecting

Mr LITTLEPROUD: I'll take the interjection. I can't remember the last time you'd seen a dairy farmer. The reality is this: we have been calm and decisive about making sure that we put in an environmental framework. To try to undertake a political stunt where you're going to engage with the ACCC, who have just completed a report that effectively says nothing about supporting this fanciful idea that the member for Hunter has put up, will not work. They understand it's nothing more than a stunt. There's no substance, and it's actually cruel. It's actually a cruel hoax to the dairy farmers of this country. It's a cruel hoax to try to politicise the issues that they've had.

This is about leadership, not politics. And, while the member for Hunter has said that he's disappointed in my performance, I can say that I'm proud of the fact that I have reached across the aisle. For the first time in this nation's history, we have an agreement on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the biggest environmental plan in this nation's history. It is—since Federation. And you know what? It only happened, Member for Hunter—you might want to learn this—because I reached out across the aisle to the member for Watson, and he helped. We worked together. Do not politicise people's plights for your own political gain.

This government will continue on a journey of putting a strong environment around our farmers to ensure they make the best returns. It doesn't happen overnight. It has to be done properly with due process; otherwise, you'll end up with the mess that we've had to fix over the last six years from Labor. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion moved by the member for Hunter be agreed to.