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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28699

Mr SOMLYAY (2:45 PM) — I ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to update the House on the progress of the federal government's Dairy Regional Assistance Program. How is this program assisting communities which relied heavily on dairying as a major employer and are now searching for alternative industries? Minister, what obstacles exist to the government's assistance for dairy communities?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the honourable member for Fairfax for his question—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr TRUSS —I note the very quick responses and jeers coming from members opposite. They are always very quick to condemn this government's program to assist dairy farmers who are struggling to come to grips with the decision by state governments to deregulate their industry. Labor has done nothing for dairy farmers. It has done nothing in Queensland, nothing in New South Wales, nothing in Victoria—

Mr SPEAKER —I expect the member for Braddon—

Mr SPEAKER —and the member for Paterson to extend to the minister the courtesies obliged under the standing orders.

Mr TRUSS —Labor has done nothing to assist dairy farmers.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Makin!

Mr SPEAKER —Minister for Trade!

Mr Horne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I invite you to ask the minister to come to the point rather than inviting members from—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Paterson will resume his seat. He does not have a point of order. The obligation on the member for Paterson is as contained in standing order 55.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for McMillan is warned!

Mr TRUSS —After the states acted to deregulate their dairy industries, this government put in place a significant assistance package for dairy farmers. That package has already committed over $1.6 billion to dairy farmers around Australia. But included in the package was a small element to provide assistance also to dairy communities. An amount of $45 million—hopefully boosted to $60 million shortly—will help provide assistance to those communities that have also been affected by dairy deregulation. The honourable member for Fairfax represents one of those communities. Indeed the Caloola shire is one of those areas that have been identified amongst the 10 most affected shires in the whole of Australia. So the dairy adjustment program has already provided 100 projects to create new jobs and new industry opportunities in communities around Australia.

I am surprised at the interjections from members opposite, because when this program was introduced the shadow minister actually sought to take credit for it. He actually went out and said, `I called for provision to be made for regional adjustment assistance to help communities with the impacts of deregulation.' So the man who masquerades as the shadow minister, when he is not asleep at the wheel, supported this program when it was introduced. But, of course, over in the Senate, where Senator Forshaw actually runs Labor policy, the attitude is somewhat different. In fact, this week in the Senate, Senator Forshaw, when referring to this program and commenting on an announcement, said:

Not so long ago, $1.5 million was announced by the Prime Minister ... for a meatworks in the electorate of the minister for agriculture.

As usual, he got nearly all his facts wrong. It was $1.6 million. Also, the Prime Minister did not make the announcement in my electorate, nor is the meatworks in my electorate; it is in the electorate of the honourable member for Fairfax. It is a $1.6 million project that will create about 100 new jobs. That is the sort of program that Senator Forshaw is criticising. In fact, he actually called it `milk-barrelling'. That was the word he used. So, whenever assistance is to be provided to a country electorate, a country area suffering from deregulation implemented by a state Labor government, Labor dismisses it all as milk-barrelling. So there is a pretty clear message out there to people in rural and regional Australia: if ever Labor is elected, any programs that benefit rural and regional Australia are on the rack.

Naturally, you cannot blame Senator Forshaw for getting the electorates wrong. I know that, like most Labor operatives, he has not left the city limits too long, so he has probably got his geography a bit mixed. But the reality is that this is a significant project in the electorate of the honourable member for Fairfax that has already—

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Braddon!

Mr TRUSS —shown the potential to provide significant benefits for that region. So, once again, where are Labor heading? At one stage, we had the shadow minister for agriculture saying that Dairy RAP was a good idea. Senator Forshaw, who is usually running agriculture policy, says the opposite. We go into other areas as well. The shadow minister for education sits on the front bench, but the real decisions, or announcements, are made by the member for Werriwa. And we have the shadow foreign minister on the frontbench, but the member for Griffith making the decisions. Labor are divided. They do not know where they are going and it is high time they backed the government's initiatives to provide real benefits to dairy farmers around Australia.