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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 79

Mr BROAD (MalleeAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (10:14): I wish to update the House on the seasonal conditions being experienced across the electorate of Mallee. I do so with the experience of being a farmer myself. We are unloading sheep on our own property and making provision for the dry that's coming. Droughts do have a way of starting from the north and moving their way south. They expand. And one of the things that have been very good about our farming systems is, with no-till farming, we've been able to get crops established on very little moisture. But our crops don't have much subsoil moisture at this time, and I still remember 3 and 4 October quite a number of years ago when crops that had potential just burnt off to nothing. Yesterday, it was 31 degrees and very hot and windy across the northern part of the Mallee. Those crops that had potential are fast losing their potential. Some of our farmers are putting livestock onto those crops just to try and salvage some sort of return. It is a mixed bag. The southern part of the electorate of Mallee is having a reasonably good season, as the coastal rains have come up.

I just want to say to those who are watching crops diminish and die, as a member of parliament who has had that experience myself, it is disheartening having to look out the window and see all your hard effort and all your financial rewards being blown away. We do have farm household support available, which will be a stand-by. We do have rural financial counsellors to assist in filling out that paperwork, because it can be quite complex. We do have mental health support. I hope that we can still get a late rain that will salvage some of those crops, but I do want to say to my farming community that there are people in this place who have got lived experience who know what it's like to actually be looking out the window and saying, 'I don't really want to go outside today, because I know the impacts of our weather.'

One of the great things that I think has built resilience has been the women in our farming system. I want to pay tribute to them. They stand by, often, their partners who have worked very hard and are seeing the fruits of their labour sometimes not being realised. The Australian agricultural industry has a long future. Those farmers we've got in Australia are very, very outstanding people. The way they manage their mental health, their financial risk and their seasonal risk is something for which we should be commending them. It will rain again. The northern Mallee has had wonderful years in the past and will have wonderful years in the future, but I wanted to update the House because there's a perception that the drought is only taking place in New South Wales. It is expanding, as we are now experiencing in the northern Mallee, and it is imperative for me, as a federal member of parliament, that I update this House so that other members of parliament know that we can stand by these people if the season turns against them.