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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3371


Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (15:49): I refer to the member for Paterson where she speaks about a rural doctor shortage. I can tell her I have been dealing in this issue for over 20 years; I know more about rural doctor shortages than most people combined on the other side of this House.

Mr Fitzgibbon: You can't say that!

Mr RAMSEY: Let me tell you, the reason we have a reduction in doctors is that we are training so many doctors in Australia and we will not tell them where to practice—and neither will your side of politics, let me tell you, but there is much more to be known about that.

I come to the specifics of this MPI today. I refer to the member for Hunter. The member for Hunter is a pretty good bloke. I accept that. But I am very surprised he has put this motion up today, particularly as the shadow minister for agriculture. I am proud to be part of a government that has delivered very well on agriculture. I farmed for 35 years before I got into this place, and as with doctor shortages, my guess is I have forgotten more about farming than the people from the other side would have ever learned about it.

Let us consider for a start the free trade agreement we have signed with Japan. In fact, the Japanese free trade agreement is a high-water mark, because it has an in-built mechanism for most-preferred-nation trading status. We have completed trade agreements with China and with Korea. One of my constituents recently landed the first plane-load of live cattle into China. We have rebuilt the live sheep and cattle trade. What do we get as a result of this? Record prices, a record amount of income coming back into agricultural rural communities. We have delivered the three-year tax write-off for fodder storage infrastructure and an instant tax write-off for fencing and water infrastructure.

Let me tell you about the west of my electorate. Five years ago farmers were getting rid of sheep because they could not afford the $3-plus a kilolitre for water. They do not have clay, they do not have surface dams, they do not have rivers; all they had was this very expensive state supply of water. Now, under these arrangements, they are able to put in plastic water runs, plastic dams and plastic covers on those dams. Some of my friends have done so. It is a remarkable transformation; it is a great opportunity for them. We have introduced the accelerated rate of tax write-off for assets under $20,000, and put an extra $100 million into research.

And let me tell you about FMD, one of the greatest tools ever devised for the farming community. It is an absolute winner. It provides an incentive for farmers to prepare for droughts. It was introduced by a Liberal government, under John Howard. We have doubled the level of FMD available to farmers. There is a great reason to do this. Some of the farmers in my area will have an $800,000 or $1 million budget just to get the crops in the ground. Being able to put a reasonable amount of money aside will give them perhaps two years of operating expenses and the ability to work their way through a drought. And then of course we have given them the ability to offset the income from the FMD against the interest from their borrowings.

We have developed a solid platform of drought assistance around Australia. It must be remembered that those on the other side, the Labor Party, when they were in government dismantled the exceptional circumstances scheme and left nothing in its place—nothing. It is inevitable in Australia that we will have droughts, and preparations need to be made. I commend the agriculture minister for rebuilding that platform. We have introduced country-of-origin food labelling. While its aim is not to benefit farmers, there is almost certainly going to be a spin-off effect for Australian farmers in that a percentage of consumers want to patronise Australian farmers, they want to support Australian industry, and those labels are hitting the shelves now.

Some of the speakers on this motion have talked about telecommunications—the mobile phone black spot program, which has not worked as well in South Australia, I must say, as in the other states, because our state government has been dragging its heels. But it is the first federal money that has gone into mobile phone black spots since John Howard was the Prime Minister. When we recently did an inquiry into agricultural innovation it was made patently clear to us by those who live in the country that higher than any other point of telecommunications is mobile phone black spots. I wish I had another five, 10 or 15 minutes, because the list of achievements of this government is long and important. (Time expired)