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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13294

Mr LYONS (Bass) (12:16): My interest in rural communities is in my electorate of Bass, and the fantastic work that is being done, largely by the Australian government in irrigation schemes, is making and will make a significant difference to the producers in my electorate. I have been at, and participated in, the recent opening of the Winnaleah Irrigation Augmentation Scheme and the Headquarters Road Dam Irrigation Scheme in my electorate.

I have some reservations about the rural communities, and I know that it comes down to education because I have spoken to several farmers about the proposed approval by the Tasmanian government to import poppy straw to one of the poppy processors in Tasmania that looks like getting up. I have spoken at these irrigation schemes about farmers diversifying. In that north-east area of Tasmania they largely produce milk. It has fantastic soils for growing grass, but if we are going to put irrigation schemes in they need to multiply the value of that land. I said to them that it would be really good if you could diversify and do a bit more poppy growing—and I know some do, and they do a fantastic job—but I spoke to one farmer from Scottsdale and he said to me: 'I'm sort of 63, 64. I don't really know that I want to go into poppies. I'd rather just run beef cattle, have a fairly easy life and work my way into retirement.' This is a problem in our rural communities. We have an ageing workforce, and it would be fantastic if we could be really innovative, and get into those new crops. And what a place Tasmania is for those innovations.

One of our local producers in Scottsdale is doing a fantastic job producing rhubarb for Australia—fantastic. One of the innovations coming out of that rhubarb crop that they are producing in Tasmania is a thing called 'Rhu Bru'. What they are doing is taking the waste from the rhubarb and making a fantastic drink, and if you have not had one of these refreshing drinks, then you should get Rhu Bru, produced in Scottsdale. It is fantastic. It is one of the most refreshing drinks you could ever hope to get.

An honourable member: I am not sure it will replace orange juice.

Mr LYONS: This is an innovation—I think Rhu Bru is better than orange juice and I am quite happy to bring some bottles of Rhu Bru up here to deliver to every member of parliament because it is just such a fantastic, refreshing drink. Rhu Bru is one of the innovations—this is where we need to be in Tasmania with these great irrigation schemes that we are putting in. We also need to maintain our great production of dairy products in our area. It is a pity that we have not got any processors in North-east Tasmania; we send most of our product to the north-west coast and that is produced into various cheeses and all sorts of wonderful dairy products coming out of Tasmania—fantastic. We have to look after the member for Braddon because that is his electorate. The federal government has been a great supporter of those producers both in the Smithton area and in Burnie—fantastic support that the government has given for those dairy products many of which are produced in the north-east.

I really wanted to talk about the Tasmanian exports and the difficulty we have had with the Victorian government imposing a $75 million penalty on Tasmania—it is a real tragedy that the Victorian government is putting that tax on Tasmanian exporters. Exports from Tasmania now probably cost about $3½ thousand per container to get out of Tasmania, whereas once it was about $1,300. This has made a tremendous difference to our rural producers, and we do need to find a solution for Tasmania's export freight industry. We do need to find a long-term, viable solution. All I can say is: food and wine in Tasmania has the most sensational potential of anywhere in Australia, and if you have not tried Tasmanian wines and Tasmanian cheeses, you have really missed out. And I promise to bring every member of parliament a Rhu Bru. (Time expired)