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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1115

Agriculture Industry

Senator McDONALD (Queensland) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture. The Australian agricultural industry is leading the world in innovation and providing best practice in efficiencies, technology and sustainability. Can the minister update the Senate on how the government is demonstrating it's on the side of our local farming communities?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Agriculture and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:33): On this side of the chamber, we are excited about agriculture—the beef industry, the lamb industry, the rice industry, the dairy industry, the horticulture industry. We recognise the huge opportunity to grow Australian agriculture to reach its potential, despite the current challenges, because our farmers are world class. We're a government who are on their side, who want to enable them to do what they do best: producing the very best food and fibre in the world. Agriculture drives rural and regional economies and supports local communities. It drives our national prosperity and it always has. Supporting farmers is not just in the Nationals' interest; it's in the national interest.

Today the Senate passed the farm household allowance and, since our victory on 18 May, we've already delivered on our election commitment and secured the $5 billion Future Drought Fund in the face of resistance from those opposite. We are progressing our tough new penalties to help protect farmers from the real threat of activists invading their farms, damaging their property, stealing their animals, and harassing and intimidating their staff. Farmers have the right to farm and to feel safe, and workers have the right to go to work and be safe and free from harassment and intimidation. This side of politics recognises that farm invasions are more than civil disobedience, Senator Di Natale and Senator Rice—through you, Mr President. We know that farmers are terrified and some have been driven from their industry. What the Greens wants to see is that we're no longer farming in this country; we're only farming vegan produce rather than farming livestock.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator McKENZIE: I'm sorry, your senators said it here and outside of this place, that they do not want to see the farming of livestock. This side of politics wants to see more farmers in local communities, not fewer.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McDonald, a supplementary question.

Senator McDONALD (Queensland) (14:35): What are the specific steps the government is taking to ensure the agricultural industry hits its $100 billion target by 2030?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Agriculture and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:35): As announced recently by the Prime Minister in Dubbo, our government is backing Australian agriculture's desire to grow to a $100 billion industry by 2030. The National Farmers' Federation says it's possible and it's a goal worth fighting for. Our total farm production has already increased by around 25 per cent over the last six years, and we'll drive further growth through getting more of our agricultural produce to overseas markets; strengthening biosecurity that underpins 'Brand Australia', which is so valuable to that export proposition; reforming our research and development and innovation sector, making sure that the $1 billion investment we do make as a federal government finds profit at the farm gate; ensuring connectivity; and making sure there's an appropriate skilled workforce available when and where our farmers need it. We want to make sure our farmers succeed and that rural and regional communities that depend on agriculture succeed with them.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McDonald, a final supplementary question.

Senator McDONALD (Queensland) (14:36): Can the minister outline any risks to the prosperity of Australian farmers?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Agriculture and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:36): Yes, I can, Senator McDonald. While we've sided with farmers from day one, the support for farmers from those opposite has been lukewarm at best. Some would say it's colder than a Canberra winter.

Senator Sterle interjecting

Senator McKENZIE: Sorry, Senator Sterle—through you, Mr President—it actually has. There's a phrase that the press gallery has been using about the response of those opposite to the government's agenda. It's about complaining, making a noise and then, at the end of the day, voting for the proposition. We would seek that you actually support our agenda rather than bitch and moan about it. When Labor is given a chance to side with farmers and stand up to activists, we get more of the same flip-flop. Our message is: just get on with it. Save us the heartache and save our ears from bleeding. If you're going to vote for our legislation to support farmers, say it up-front and get on with it. The Australian public sent a strong message at the ballot box, and that was to back our regions.