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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9994


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (19:20): After that long—

Senator Payne: Tirade?

Senator RUSTON: tirade—thank you, Senator Payne—from Senator Collins, it gives me great pleasure to stand up and talk about something that I think is extraordinarily important—that is, meeting the commitments that we make to the Australian people. Given that we live in an extraordinary world of alternative facts—which is probably the politest way of putting it—where public opinion trumps facts and science, it is really important that we continue to keep our promises, and deliver accountability, transparency, honesty and integrity. The only way that we're going to deal with the deficit of trust out there, that's being created by those who were quite happy to peddle in alternative facts, is by returning the trust of the Australian people through keeping our promises.

One of the great promises that have been kept in very recent times was in relation to the same-sex marriage debate. We held a survey, we asked the Australian people what they wanted, 79.5 per cent of them turned up to have their say, and we had an overwhelming response where they voted 'yes'. Last week we passed the legislation through this place, and it is downstairs at the moment. I think it is really important that we recognise the fact that it is irresponsible to ignore the mandates that are given to those in this place by the public—mandates that have often been ignored; particularly, for instance, by those opposite, who ignored the mandate that I believe that the Abbott government got when it was elected in 2013, and that was to abolish the carbon tax. The level of frustration that occurred in the period following the election in 2013—to the extent that we were not able to act on the mandate that was delivered by the people—was reprehensible. I believe that goodwill, cooperation and collaboration with the private sector are absolutely essential, as is making sure that we speak to the public, we talk to the public and we listen to the public.

What I'd like to highlight in the few minutes that I have now are some of the things that might not have been able to happen if we hadn't taken the approach, which I think is appropriate—you know the old saying, Mr Acting Deputy President: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar! A constant adversarial approach—'we've just got to oppose things for opposition's sake'—doesn't actually serve any purpose in terms of delivering good governance and outcomes for the people of Australia. In my portfolio, I take great pride in refusing to play politics. I also refuse to play politics in my role as a senator, because I believe that actually delivering the outcomes for people is far more important—for the people that I represent: as a senator, they are the people of South Australia; and in my Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio, they are, most particularly, those people in the fisheries, forestry, wine and horticulture industries, and those people who live in the Murray-Darling Basin. I believe it is much more important to listen to what they have to say and to work really hard to deliver the outcomes that they need, to benefit those people. I'm not after a headline by just saying 'no', and I'm not after a headline by playing politics; I am after delivering outcomes for the people that I represent.

It is with great pleasure that tonight I'd like to outline a few of the things that have happened in my portfolio area that have delivered positive outcomes. In the wine industry we have been delighted to be able to deliver a suite of reforms in relation to taxation and the marketing of the wine industry that have been wholeheartedly embraced by the wine industry. We listened to the industry. There were some issues on the table when I came in as the minister, but we've listened to the wine industry and we've delivered a suite of reforms which the industry has embraced. For instance, we have reformed the wine equalisation tax so that it better reflects the original intent of the policy.

In doing so, the federal government has also made available to the wine industry a $50 million package that will enable the industry to take advantage of the massive international export marketing opportunity that is on our doorstep in Asia. Included in this is an additional $10 million wine tourism cellar door package, which gives us the opportunity to say to the wine industry that we recognise the huge contribution it makes to regional Australia by its investment in its cellar doors, restaurants and cafes. Most particularly, we recognise the employment that is delivered to rural and regional Australia by the Australian wine industry.

In relation to the forestry sector, it was an absolute pleasure to have worked with a group of people who delivered the Forest Industry Advisory Council's report Transforming Australia's forest products industry: recommendations from the Forest Industry Advisory Council. Now, only a matter of 12 months after the release of that report, you can go through the 19 recommendations and see that many of them have already been ticked off and that we are well underway towards delivering the outcomes that the Australian forestry industry has asked the government to deliver. We believe that the forestry industry is a regional growth engine, so we are investing in its future. It was with great pleasure that I stood with the Prime Minister when he announced that we are going to develop a new plan that reflects the recommendations and the requests of the forestry industry in its plan to transform the sector.

We have also established a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation. Two of these hubs will be set up in Tasmania and South Australia, and we're looking forward to working with the industry to roll out more of these innovation hubs around Australia. We're looking forward to working with the forestry sector to transition their industry from an industry of the past to an industry of the future—one that is technologically advanced, responsible, sustainable, recyclable, renewable. For those who haven't heard me lately, it's also carbon positive. So, we're absolutely delighted that we are moving forward in the forestry sector.

In terms of the fisheries sector, I can also say it was an absolute delight to stand with my colleagues Veronica Papacosta and Jane Lovell when they announced the launch of Seafood Industry Australia, the new peak industry body for the commercial fishing sector. They've really hit the ground running and are doing amazing things already. This government has met another of its election commitments in recognising recreational and Indigenous fishers, and we've changed legislation to do so.

We believe that this is a shared resource. There are many stakeholders, and not any one stakeholder should have a greater say. We are working with the recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors to make sure that they too can have their say and make their contributions to the development of fisheries policy in Australia. We were delighted to work with the recreational fishing sector to put on 'gone fishing' days, so that we can let the young people of Australia understand what a fantastic pastime going fishing is and let them know there's something more to life than perhaps playing on their PlayStation or their Xbox.

We also take our responsibilities in the international fisheries sector very seriously. We work, particularly with Pacific island countries, to make sure that we have sustainable fisheries in the international space. Many of our very important fisheries are international fisheries, so we are catching the same fish that they are catching in Vanuatu, Niue and the Marshall Islands, as well as Indonesia, Japan and many other places. It was with great pleasure that I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnamese government so that we can work with them to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and promote sustainable fisheries, which both our governments are very keen to do.

From a fisheries perspective we have a very proud record of delivering on the promises we went to the Australian people with. We have also put out the Commonwealth fisheries policy statement, which places a strong emphasis on balance and sustainability. It is a statement of Australia's sovereignty over its fisheries, recognising that these fish, our fisheries and our marine environment are owned by all Australians and that no one sector, whether in Australia or overseas, can claim a greater victory. These are shared resources, and they must be managed accordingly.

We've also delivered our national agriculture strategy, and early in the new year we will be delivering our Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Fisheries Bycatch Policy, once again delivering on the promises that we took to the Australian people. In the horticulture area we've delivered the new horticultural code of conduct, which sees a much better balance between the responsibilities of the markets and the growers to make sure that we have security for everybody going into the future.

Finally, in the water sector, despite all of the hoo-ha and the carry-on that we've heard in this place, I'd like to advise the chamber that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is on target to deliver its projected targets for 2019. With the approval through this place of the two amendments—one at the moment and one early in the New Year—we will be able to deliver our 2,750 by 2019. It is a great news story. We have delivered. (Time expired)