Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (10:06): On behalf of my constituents and those who live in rural and regional Australia right across this great country I want to express my concern about a very serious misleading of them by the National Party and, in particular, by Minister Joyce, the agriculture minister.
In the lead-up to the change in leadership of the Liberal Party Barnaby Joyce, in particular, expressed concern that the election of Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader and therefore Prime Minister would be a bad thing for rural and regional Australia. He made plenty of noise. After the event, after some initial criticism he went somewhat quiet, claiming that the National Party had entered into a new coalition agreement in which they had extracted all sorts of additional concessions for rural and regional Australia. He implied that the coalition agreement struck in 2013 was not an optimal one for rural and regional Australia. What Barnaby Joyce was trying to say was it is okay now for Malcolm Turnbull to be the Prime Minister. It is okay for rural and regional Australia because we have reached a new agreement that will result in new spending and offers to rural and regional Australia.
We now know that was untrue. Minister Joyce misled rural and regional Australia, including his own constituents. I have with me a huge photo of Minister Joyce in the Northern Daily Leader, in his own electorate, which pronounces Joyce the winner in the new agreement. It suggests that the coalition agreement has been consigned to the scrap heap and a new one put in its place.
I have been asking these questions for a couple of days now. Finally, the Deputy Prime Minister, no less, appeared on Sky News yesterday and said there is no new agreement. There is a letter of understanding, which seeks to confirm the old agreement and everything contained within it. There is no new money or new programs and nothing for rural and regional Australia. Those residents have been misled.
I close by acknowledging the passing of Dr Don Lang at the age of 92. Don Lang was a general practitioner in Cessnock, my home town for almost 30 years. Indeed, when I was a young lad he was my own doctor. He was a war veteran, a life member of the Australian Labor Party and, over his many active years in the community, he had been the local president of just about every local community organisations. He was very heavily involved in St Vincent de Paul, for example. He was a great Australian. I pay tribute to him and express my sympathy to his six children and his grandchildren.