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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6883


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (19:41): Spring is a remarkable time in Western Australia. From picnics in Kings Park amongst the wildflowers, watching humpback whales migrating from Albany to Exmouth, experiencing the Shinju Matsuri pearl festival in Broome or cheering the top two teams in the AFL finals, it is a time when the entire state comes alive and basks in the warm weather and vast array of exciting events that mark the end of winter. In WA's Wheatbelt, the end of the winter rains marks the beginning of the nervous wait amongst Australia's largest wheat growers, who know too well that this year's bumper harvest can all too easily be hit with frost or wet weather. It is a feeling shared by WA livestock producers who wonder whether this year's lambing season will be impacted by a weakening dollar or loss of access to lucrative markets.

This is why it was refreshing to see the high levels of optimism expressed by WA farmers at this year's Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days, which I attended along with one of the strongest contingents of Western Australian federal and state Liberal members of parliament. This positive shift in the outlook for the upcoming season had a huge impact on the success of the event, with a record number of exhibitors and close to 23,000 visitors attending, which was well up on the long-term average for gate numbers. Exhibitors also reported high sales and a significant number of positive inquiries, with many farmers banking on a respectable season for the first time in many years. Many long-term Dowerin patrons reported that the quality of this year's exhibits was the best it has ever been, with the site absolutely packed with new agricultural machinery and related equipment.

However, as anyone who has ever spent time in the bush knows, farmers are a cautious mob, especially in times of pending good fortune. It is a nature brought on by having a million-dollar crop destroyed by hail or having livestock dying from thirst. It is a caution bred from having your market taken away at the swipe of a ministerial pen or being compelled through legislation to export your grain through a single desk. This is a caution that remains despite having a Liberal government that recognises the value and importance of our farmers; a government that supports their industry; a government that is committed to improving their farm gate returns—a government that has delivered three new trade agreements, seven new livestock export markets and 42 technical market access gains; a government that has delivered improved drought concessional loans, tax deductions for new on-farm water facilities and fodder storage assets; and a government that is reducing debt, creating jobs and supporting our farmers.

It is a caution that remains due to the Labor Party and the CFMEU's continued attack on the China free trade agreement, an agreement that will further expand the excellent trading relationship that WA farmers have with China already. It is a caution that remains due to the Labor Party and the Greens' determination to end the live export trade. It is a caution that remains due to the refusal of WA Nationals leader Terry Redman to rule out forming a government with the Labor Party after the next state election in 2017—the same Labor Party that opposes free trade, live exports, GM canola and oil and gas exploration. WA Nationals leader Terry Redman has made it clear that the WA Nationals are an independent party—independent of the conservative, centre-right Liberal Party. The former leader, Brendon Grylls, says that he sees the WA Nationals, once again, running as independents at the next federal election—independent of the coalition; independent of policies that have delivered free trade agreements, supported live exports and deregulated port access for WA's largest grain handler, CBH; independent of policies that have favoured the rollout of the NBN in rural and regional areas over metropolitan areas and addressed mobile phone black spots in regional WA; and independent of the coalition's National Wild Dog Action Plan, including funding for on-ground control measures, including fencing, to support Western Australian livestock producers.

The WA Nationals' willingness to join with and support the policies of the Australian Labor Party for their own political advantage is the cause of great concern throughout regional Western Australia. WA and regional communities remain cautious. Regional Western Australians deserve political leaders who are open and up front with their policies and will champion their issues. This is why I will continue to work with my federal and state Liberal parliamentary colleagues to realise the bright future our farmers and regional communities deserve.