It’s great to see the Crown Plaza Hunter Valley’s new conference centre officially opened.

It is certainly an excellent investment for the local area. It only seems like last year that I announced the $250,000 funding with then General Manager David Bark.

The funding was made available under the Labor Federal Government’s Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund (TIRF).

In a speech to the WA Farmers Annual Conference in Perth last Friday I spoke of the growing need to lift future farm profitability by consolidating and exploiting our reputation for high quality clean, green and safe food.

There is no doubt in my mind that future gains in profitability will increasingly come from our capacity to authenticate, verify, consolidate and sustain our clean, green and safe image.  Along with animal welfare assurance, these are the areas which will deliver our capacity to secure premium prices for our high quality products.

I also spoke about foreign investment saying it is critical to the agriculture sector's success and flagged a new debate about linking foreign investment to environmental and sustainability outcomes through continuous improvement management systems.

I'm keen for a conversation about a link between foreign investment and environmental outcomes.  Does the investment proposal for example, include a commitment to a credible environmental management plan - a plan to improve water efficiency, soil quality and animal welfare outcomes?

We need to break down the mystery of the Foreign Investment Review Board and build public confidence that we have a system which puts the national interest first.

Last week I visited a local childcare centre to learn more about the impact of Budget cuts on the system.  Cutting childcare assistance is a false saving because the capacity of families to access quality and affordable childcare is crucial to our economic growth and therefore, government revenues.

Childcare should be one of our highest priorities.

Voting in Australia is compulsory, but it is also a privilege.  It is important that you exercise your right to vote and to do so you need to make sure your enrolment is up to date. 

To check your current enrolment or to register to vote go to www.aec.gov.au and follow the links or call my office for more information.  Make your vote count!

I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.

Why not go the extra step by following me on my Facebook page “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”. Or by regularly checking my website at www.joelfitzgibbon.com or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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