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Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Page: 14089

Mr JOYCE (New England) (13:16): I rise to address some comments by the member for—well, we think it's Hunter; sometimes he goes there. The member for Hunter is a man rarely seen in his own electorate, a man we pick up so many complaints about from the seat next door in New England. They can't contact him; he's invisible.

Let's go through the crux of the issue. I will tell you what the Labor Party's policy for agriculture is thus far. First, they're going to close down the live sheep trade. I imagine it's a precursor to what they did before, which was close down the live cattle trade. Then—we know this from the speeches we've had in here from the Labor Party—they're going to have a look at the transport industry, the cattle trucks carting around the stock. In a land so immense as Australia, there is absolutely no point in saying we're going to start following European guidelines. It just won't work.

Labor do not support dams. In fact, they're on the record that they're going to take money out of our dams policy. That's because they can't take on the Greens. They're ridden over by the Greens. At least we have a formal coalition. They have an informal one with political terrorists who, basically, drive the agenda. They don't want an agricultural industry. They don't support the Regional Investment Corporation. They mock it. There is a major move towards getting a greater propensity for forward vision in the corporation, and they are going to close it down. So they close down the live sheep trade and close down the Regional Investment Corporation.

Labor don't believe in decentralisation. They worship the gods of Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney. Apparently it's not just and not proper unless it happens in one of the capitals. Then they come up with this erroneous proposition that the APVMA is not working. It is. We've got about 80 staff there now. They're coming in from all round the world—not despite it being in Armidale but because it's in Armidale. Labor have never given us any vision, such as a movement towards the Bradfield Scheme—something to start a nation-building project that, although it could never get rid of drought, could mitigate some of the effects of drought.

Looking at some of the other issues, they bring up FHA. My gosh, I would never have gone there, Member for Hunter. I think you had about 386 people who were receiving FHA. We have 7,100 people who've had access to it under us. Labor don't believe in the concessional loans we're giving out, even though it is close to three-quarters of a billion to a billion dollars that we've lent out at concessional rates. It has a large demand; it must be working.

What have we delivered? In this term, since we took over from the Labor Party—which just does not believe in regional towns and does not believe in agriculture—we've provided record sheep prices, near-record wool prices, record cattle prices, record horticultural prices and record lamb prices. The Labor Party had literally decimated the agriculture department. The budget for the agriculture department more than halved under their time. It's right that the member for Hunter—or possibly Hunter; he's the member for Hunter when he's there—sits at the very edge of their bench, because that's about where agriculture is in Labor Party logic: at the very edge of their front bench.

This morning they've moved for a floor price for milk. That sounds great! We actually had one before. We had a floor price in wool. In the end, some of the suggestions were that we should burn the stock of wool down, because unfortunately it was completely affecting the whole market. Now, after we have a floor price for milk, I can't wait for people wanting a floor price for carrots, a floor price for tomatoes, a floor price for cattle, a floor price for wool again, a floor price for sheep and a floor price for avocados. This is going to be complete chaos! The issue in this area is how the market power of major organisations work, at times, to the detriment of farmers and breaking that nexus down. The issue is major supermarkets selling milk at $1 a litre, except for Woolworths, which changed just the other day, when water is nearly twice the price. That's the issue you need to address, and unless you have the fortitude to really go into that space then all you're doing is taking the farmers to a position where they still really don't recognise what they'll get out of the floor price and where the major supermarkets can rely on their capacity to exploit farmers because the government will pick up the tab.

That means the Labor Party doesn't have the capacity to take on major organisations. That is peculiar, because when we put up divestiture powers in one small section of the power industry, they went out of their tree. Why would they do that? Why would they be so worried about that, about us trying to bring down the price of power to further assist the large power bills of irrigators, dairy farmers and so many sections in the agricultural community? It's because they don't want to offend big unions, who work hand in glove with big business, especially big power companies. Divestiture of powers speaks directly into that space. By their very actions, they're not helping farmers, basically.

I'll say something about what I do agree with: I agree with access to justice, which we helped support. The reason I do that is because that is actually dealing in the mechanism where we can fit so many problems and have them properly supported in a court process so that a just outcome is provided, and not the outcome provided as a result of the largest chequebook.

One of the most annoying things is the Labor Party coming out with their solution to so many regional problems—and we hear it, in parrot fashion, from the member for Hunter. Maybe he's there today? They're going to solve the drought with a climate change policy. Now, I absolutely acknowledge climate change, but this idea that you can trundle around the countryside saying, 'What we'll do is go straight back to parliament'—and I've heard this—'and we're going to effect a climate change policy immediately.' People go out and look at the sky, look around and say: 'Oh, you can make it rain from a green room in Canberra! You're an absolute genius!' How does that work? How exactly is that going to work? Stick your head out the window of your car as you're driving on your way back to the Hunter at some stage and ask this: 'Is this actually going to bring any solution to the immediate problems right here and now for people living with the drought?' Of course, the answer is no.

But the member for Hunter, the shadow minister for agriculture, has to try to stitch together some of their other policy agenda items, driven by the Greens, and call it an agricultural solution that will happen now. There is not one person—not the most ardent climate change scientist—who says that Australia acting alone is going to have any effect whatsoever on the climate. It is an arguable point whether even the world working in unison, acting alone, will have any effect on what are changing climactic conditions. I acknowledge that. But they'll never grasp something that can help seriously, such as irrigation.

Remember, one of the issues is the reason why we don't have blue-green algae outbreaks at Bingara or even right through to Moree or Tamworth, I suppose. That's because they have a regulated system of water upstream that releases water. And upstream from that regulation, guess what we get? As we go upstream, where there are no dams, we get back into blue-green algae outbreaks. That is just part and parcel of it.

This is what the Australian Labor Party is like: the member for 'sometimes I might be in the Hunter' rarely to never asks a question about agriculture. He might go to the despatch box for a little snide remark or some smart alec comment which he thinks is somehow humorous—it's usually nauseous. But he's never come out and actually asked us anything substantial about agricultural policy. Do you know why? He doesn't care about agricultural policy. I imagine he's looking for his next move up the bench. The agricultural minister in the Labor Party is the person who holds the door open for everyone else, because they don't see a purpose for him being in the room. That's basically how it works.

We then go to decentralisation. The Regional Investment Corporation, while they would probably have it if they could put it in Canberra, don't believe in the APVMA being in Armidale. They want to move it back, even though we have got a $24 million building that is just near completion there and have between 60 and 80 employees there. We are going to build up to 150 employees, but they think they're so smart when they attack it. It just says, in a clarion way, that they don't believe in regional Australia and they don't believe in agriculture.

We heard other examples of how they don't believe in regional Australia this morning from Mr Richard Marles. He said that they don't believe in the thermal coal industry or in Adani, which is going to help so many people who are unemployed in North Queensland. They just don't believe in. They believe in the fairies at the bottom of the garden and the expansion of the philosophical zeitgeist of the far left. They believe in that. They want it to happen in Sydney, they want it to happen in Canberra and they want it to happen in Melbourne, but they don't want it in the centre of Tasmania—no, they don't want that. They don't believe in decentralising to Tasmania, to the member for Lyons' seat. No, they can't have that. They've just got to keep the member for Lyons in regional Tasmania, locked firmly under a rock and shut up, so they can't get anything.

You have to remember that a lot of our water infrastructure money, which the Labor Party never supported, went to the centre of Tasmania. It was the Labor Party that was saying, 'We can't have any more water infrastructure there. We don't have money to finance it there.' How are they going to explain that to the people who might want to vote for them? They also have to understand that, to get expansion of further agricultural industries, they're going to need water. They have to have water shortages. For an expansion of the poultry industry in Tamworth, they're going to need water and they're going to need water shortages.

We never get any sense of vision from the Labor Party. They have never provided a coherent idea in agriculture. They merely talk about our positions, because they've got no positions of their own. That's their policy position; it's to put agriculture at the edge of the bench. It's only almost out of guilt that they have agriculture there, because they just don't believe in it. This is something that is going to be decisive in regional seats at this election. The Labor Party can clearly spell out their policy, rather than saying, 'Over time it will get better as you develop. If people get thrown under a bus on farms in regional Australia, that's just tough luck.'

The member for Hunter has said that we have to have an expansion of corporate agriculture in Australia, because the Labor Party doesn't believe in family farms. It's somehow impolite. They can prop up every other philosophical cause of the Greens, but they don't believe in anything for regional Australia. It's reflected in their vote. It's reflected even in their cabinet positioning as to where agriculture is. They have never come out and said they will spend a dollar on agriculture. They will comment on our $4 billion white paper, but they never suggest their alternative.

If we are to look after people in droughts, we have to make sure that we provide the mechanism for their funding into the future. We are doing this with this bill, which will build to a $5 billion fund. But all we got out of the Labor Party just then from their member was, 'Maybe I like to go home to the Hunter every now and then.' What we got from him is him saying, 'This is a slush fund. This is outrageous. How dare you use some money to help these people out in the long term in a substantive way that can prevail?' No, do you know who those opposite are going to rely on? They're going to rely on the member for Hunter. Good luck with that prospect.

What are they actually going to do here? What is the Labor Party going to sell to the people who are suffering in the north with the floods and in other areas with the drought? What are they selling? What policy have they got? They have nothing. That is precisely why people have no confidence in the Australian Labor Party and why they're cynical of everything that they actually come up with. The Labor Party have got up to this point in their term and said nothing about agriculture. Of course, if you don't support agriculture, you don't support the people in the towns in regional areas. You don't support the shops in Launceston, you don't support the tyre business in Moree and you don't support the hairdresser in Tamworth, because you don't support their economic base. That message is so clear: they have no support for the economic base in regional areas.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr McVeigh ): It being 1.30 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.