WEDNESDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2015
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: Well today people living in rural and regional Australia are asking themselves what the election of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister means for them. They are asking themselves what a bloke from Point Piper is going to do for those who live outside of our capital cities. We got a hint of the response when on Monday night the National Party MPs went ballistic in response to the idea that this guy from the eastern suburbs of Sydney might be now in charge of the country. More recently the National Party is now trying to frame the idea that somehow they have secured this special deal from Malcolm Turnbull yet there is no detail, no costings, no suggestion about how these initiatives might be funded but more particularly, no detail on some of those initiatives. So, I am calling upon the National Party to muscle up to Malcolm Turnbull and if they want to make good on their claims there are new initiatives in this Coalition agreement, they should properly set out what those initiatives are. We do know one thing, and that is that the idea that Barnaby Joyce should now be in charge of water policy is a bad thing for Australian agriculture. Australian agriculture’s future is very closely tied to the efficient and sustainable allocation of our natural resources, in particular water and our future depends on the sustainability of that resource, and we must have these decisions on the management of our water determined by science and by the Department of the Environment, which was originally John Howard’s position. To do otherwise I feel, would be a disaster for Australian agriculture and I make an appeal to Malcolm Turnbull to rethink his position. But if Barnaby Joyce wants to claim a new special deal for rural and regional Australia he needs to clearly spell out what those new arrangements are.
JOURNALIST: There have been some pretty big concessions handed over to rural Australia under Malcolm Turnbull so far including Family Tax Benefits and you mentioned water as well. Why wouldn’t people in the bush be comfortable with the indications that he is shown so far?
FITZGIBBON: Well Family Tax Benefit of course is an economy wide initiative which Barnaby Joyce is trying to turn into a rural Australia initiative. And of course along with many of the other things he’s been talking about, including water, these things were not even mentioned in the Agriculture White Paper. It took 18 months to write a White Paper which disappeared without a trace in a matter of days because it was absolutely hopeless and then 18 hours after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister we had a re-write of the White Paper mentioning things that didn’t see the light of day in the original Paper. One very good example by the way, is women’s policy in Agriculture; a very important area given the workforce challenges we face in agriculture, not a mention in the White Paper, yet today Barnaby Joyce wants to portray this as a signature issue in rural and regional Australia. It’s all about creating a strawman, creating an issue so he can claim the victory around an issue that was probably going to be done on an economy wide basis anyway.