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Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Page: 41

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (15:22): What we've seen from this government in the last few days has shown the true colours of those on the other side who purport to represent the farmers, producers and those of us living in regional and rural Australia. They're much more focused on themselves and their own jobs rather than the needs of those who made sure that this country got through the global pandemic and that Australians were fed. These are the farmers and producers who have recently been through drought, through fires, through the pandemic and who are now dealing with a mouse plague.

We on this side of the House are focused on the needs of farmers, producers and those in regional Australia. We tried last week, repeatedly, to talk about the mouse plague. This is a mouse plague that is now affecting four Australian states—four Australian states! We've asked the government repeatedly: where is the national plan for the mouse plague? Where is the national plan for the mouse plague? We got nothing. Absolutely nothing! I have written to the government several times about this issue. The New South Wales agriculture minister has written to the government and has asked for the government to do something about this mouse plague. But, no—nothing. Still nothing.

We have houses burnt down due to mice chewing through wires. We have cars dying because of the mice inside the cars. We've had a prison evacuated because of the number of mice. This is actually a really serious issue. The New South Wales Farmers Federation has said that there's about a billion dollars—$1 billion—worth of damage to crops in New South Wales because of this mouse plague. And what do we get from the government? Absolutely nothing! We didn't even get the minister to stay for this MPI to talk about farmers and producers in regional Australia. He has absolute contempt for them. What we've seen from the government, with the new Deputy Prime Minister's election, is of course more contempt—more contempt for those people living in regional Australia and for those farmers and producers.

But we've also had really serious issues raised by farmers and producers about workforce. They can't get any labour: they can't get their produce picked off farms. This has been a structural issue. They have been in government for eight long years, and for eight years they have done nothing about addressing this. They've made promises after promises after promises about delivering for farmers, yet the workers haven't shown up. They promised 25,000 vetted workers under the Seasonal Worker Program. The minister says about 7,000 have arrived in Australia, but why are the workers not able to come in? Why are they not training Australians? The workers can't come in, because, of course, they've stuffed up the vaccine and the quarantine. There's no vaccine rollout. We can't get Australians vaccinated fast enough, because they didn't do their job. There's no national quarantine system, because they haven't done their job. We've got proposals from premiers for facilities in regional Australia to have quarantine near hospitals, near airports—meeting all the government's criteria—but they won't even look at it. They won't even do an assessment of the one for Toowoomba from the Queensland government. There's nothing from this government to try to help the people of regional Australia.

Then, of course, with the workforce, they've had this national strategy sitting on their desk since October last year! October! They haven't even responded to the report. It's got recommendations in it about how the government can deal with the short-term issue and then, long term, fix the structural issues in terms of workforce. What have we had from this government? Last week we had another announcement about an agriculture visa. They promised that three years ago, and they still haven't delivered it, so they've done absolutely nothing. But they've changed leader, because apparently it's all going swimmingly; they've done a great job for regional Australia.

When I talk to the farmers and producers and people in regional Australia about the serious issues of the mouse plague, about labour, about biosecurity, about the issues affecting them on farms, not once have I heard anyone say, 'The solution is Barnaby Joyce.' Not once has that been uttered to me. Quite frankly, I am astounded that they have changed the Deputy Prime Minister, not because they care about the people of regional Australia, not because they think this will make a difference to the lives of those people—those farmers, those producers—that are doing their best for Australia under difficult circumstances because this government's not helping them. No, they've done it because Barnaby wanted the job. That is the only reason they have changed deputy prime ministers. We still have no explanation from them on why they changed leader in the Nationals—nothing—and no proper explanation about how this is going to benefit the farmers, the producers and those living in regional Australia. They've done nothing about all the really serious issues, yet they come in here and they try to talk about farmers. They talk about regional Australia. They say the word 'farmer' and 'region' an awful lot, but they actually do very little to deliver for the farmers and the producers and those that are on the land in regional Australia.

We hear all these promises; they don't deliver on them. And we hear it when it comes to grants in particular, and I'm sure the member for Ballarat will have more to say about the sports rorts and the grants that they haven't been delivering to those seats that need them. I know that, when it comes to the Building Better Regions Fund, the largest electorate in my home state of Tasmania, the electorate of Lyons, has had $800,000 over eight long years under the Building Better Regions Fund. That's it, out of this fund that's been operating for eight years. It's the largest regional electorate in Tasmania, and why do you think it's got no money? I think it's because it doesn't appear on their little spreadsheet, because it's not the right colour code. It's just shameful how they go around allocating government funds, how they talk about helping farmers and regional Australians and then they do the exact opposite. They no longer stand up for regional Australians and for farmers; they like to pretend they do. All the farmers and producers in regional Australia that I talk to raise serious issues with me about the plague, about the labour force, about biosecurity. They don't come in and talk about the issues that they do in this place—about themselves. They're talking about really serious things.

Let's talk about net zero emissions and climate. There are some great quotes, of course, from the new Deputy Prime Minister and some of the things he's said. The bottom line is the farmers want to be part of the solution. The National Farmers Federation has committed to zero net emissions by 2050, and indeed some parts of agriculture—Meat & Livestock Australia—have committed to zero net by 2030, so they want to be part of the solution. They know that the jobs in regional Australia are going to rely on us having access to markets, because the rest of the word is going this way. Also, the technology that creates the jobs in regional Australia is going to be reliant on us having that target. But, no. What we've heard from the Deputy Prime Minister is there's no way we're going to have a target while he's Leader of the Nationals. Well, the farmers will be disgraced by that. The farmers want to be part of the solution. They're out there. They're innovating. They're doing great things every day. They've dealt with the drought. They've dealt with fires. They're dealing with mouse plagues. This government is doing nothing to lift a finger to help them—absolutely nothing. They pretend they do all the time. They're doing so little to try and help the farmers in regional Australia.

Let's talk about the women in regional Australia. We know that nobody said Barnaby is the solution to the issues they're facing in regional Australia. Let's have a look at what some of the women who live in regional Australia have said about the change of Deputy Prime Minister. I want to quote Victorian Nationals MP Steph Ryan, who said:

I've never made any secret of the fact that I think Barnaby Joyce's previous actions didn't really make him eligible for the top job.

Then we have the National's WA leader, Mia Davies, who says she's 'disappointed' Barnaby Joyce is back three years after she led calls for him to resign. She said: 'It remains to be seen as to whether or not Barnaby can rebuild trust with voters that I think has been broken.' Nationals MP Michelle Landry said:

I think that if he became leader again there would be women out there that would be unhappy with that.

Then we've got the former chair of the women's council and ex-Nationals member Jess Price-Purnell, who said:

It's actually pretty devastating. My first reaction was a word I can't say on a recording. I think we've now just taken a 10-year step backwards.

That's from a former female candidate inside the National Party. These are women who know Barnaby Joyce well; who have worked with him. This is what they say about him. This is why he should not be Deputy Prime Minister—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): The member for Franklin will pause for a moment. I've given a little bit of latitude on not using the correct title but you've done it a number of times. I'll just bring you back to that.

Ms COLLINS: The Deputy Prime Minister should not be in the job he's in. If those on the other side were focused on the farmers, the producers and the people living in regional Australia they would not have changed leaders. They would've actually done something about the really serious issues that those living in regional Australia are facing, that those on the land are facing—those who are trying to make a buck out of actually producing the food and the fibre that we all need and that we all relied on during the pandemic.

This country did do some great things during the global pandemic, and our farmers and producers were part of that. They've got nothing back from this government for all of their effort and all of their energy. Instead, the government are more focused on themselves. Indeed, we see that they're still in turmoil. That is the story of this government. They're still divided. (Time expired)