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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5096


Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (19:18): It is a pleasure to make a contribution to the debate tonight given that the largest contributor in my electorate is, without a doubt, agriculture—through the horticultural sector, through the meat processing sector and through the saleyard. It is the largest employer. I remember coming into this chamber and speaking on an industrial relations issue. On the other side, it was wall-to-wall high-viz vests directing traffic—there were that many members there taking up the cause. But when it comes to debating our second largest exporter, agriculture, they are like crickets on the other side of the room—there are only a very few members. Agriculture is such an important part of my electorate. We currently have Eat Local Week underway. We have incredible exporters and we send product around the world. The Lockyer Valley, which is in the top 10 fertile valleys in the world, is often referred to as the salad bowl of Australia. But the reality is that we mostly produce vegetables—carrots, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, all the brassicas, and leeks, capsicums and tomatoes. There is a little bit of salad there, but most of it is vegetables; it is fibre. It's very labour intensive. As I said in my opening statements, that's where we get our high labour content from. We do rely on international labour to get our products to market.

More recently, I had the good minister for agriculture, Mr Littleproud, in my electorate, who, with the Prime Minister, made an announcement of $51 million to assist our growers to get product into international markets, because we have such an appetite for free trade agreements. At face value, those sitting at home in their lounge rooms watching this stimulating broadcast tonight would be asking: 'What's the inhibiter for growers in my electorate and around Australia getting product into other nations?'

Australia has an aggressive appetite for free trade. I suggest that, behind those free trade agreements, Australia has a very clean, green image that it wants to maintain and, behind that, we have biosecurity protocols that we have in place to protect Australian product from being contaminated because that's what gives us a competitive advantage. That's what allows us to go to the global markets, to put product on shelves overseas, and maintain that environmental dominance, maintain that product quality dominance that we have in so many product ranges. But those protocols can be an inhibiter when we are trying to put product into markets around the world. As a result, this government, through the announcement that the minister made the other day has budgeted there's $51 million to try and start breaking down those barriers, of which I know the minister will make a contribution to.

I suggested in my opening comments that my electorate was the biggest contributor to GDP. I have no fewer than 2,483 agricultural businesses in my electorate registered with the Australian Taxation Office. In addition to that, just to throw context to the gravity of how much we rely on agriculture, we're also integrated and linked with the transport sector, and I have no fewer than 11,240 registered single transport operators. My question tonight to the minister is: can the minister outline the coalition's investment and measures in the budget to strengthen the biosecurity systems? Why is this important to Australia and to my electorate of Wright?