Transcript - Speech - Federation Chamber - Farm Household Allowance - Monday, 25 June 2018

Australia's farmers are facing a shocking, terrible and protracted drought, and I join with all members contributing to this debate in expressing my sympathy and support for them, many of whom are now going into their eighth year of drought.

These are very difficult times for our farmers and our farming families. But what farmers and farming families need much more than our sympathy or even our empathy, as those in this place who are involved in primary production themselves know, is a coherent, long-term drought policy—a strategy from government which recognises the fact that drought can no longer be treated as an abnormal event which comes along from time to time. The climate is changing—tonight is not the time to have a debate about what's causing the change. Every primary producer I speak to believes that it is changing, and it's changing in a way which will continue to make farming more difficult for both our producers and our growers, and that includes my vignerons, who talk to me about the changing conditions all the time.

This motion does a few things. It tells us that Australia is in drought. I think we knew that. It tells us that farming families make a significant contribution to the economy. I think we knew that. It tells us that the Prime

Minister went on a drought tour. We knew that, too, because it met its objectives. It got a pretty good run on the news for a few nights in a row—there were a few selfies and a few smiles for the camera. The drought tour didn't include the Hunter, but the Prime Minister did travel to his ranch in the Upper Hunter to feed his cattle with very expensive and high-quality cottonseed before flying out, at taxpayers' expense, to face the real drought-stricken farmers in western New South Wales and Queensland. But we knew about the tour. We don't think that, after five years, the Prime Minister needed a drought tour to learn that farmers are struggling in drought and that the government needs to do more. The motion, of course, talks about the extension of the farm household allowance.

We don't have a problem with that. We'll be supporting it, but we'll be asking some important questions. The member for Calare says that this motion acknowledges that this assistance will help the nation's farmers. Well, it can do no harm.

But the really interesting thing about this motion is that it highlights division—division between, for example, the new Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and other members of the Nationals. I welcome the fact  that, during the drought tour, at least the minister for agriculture was prepared to talk about the changing climate, the need to build resilience, the need to encourage adaptation and the need to ensure that farmers have a business model that is sustainable in a changing climate. But when you have a look at the member for Calare's motion, there's nothing about climate, nothing about resilience, nothing about adaptation and nothing about changing business models. Next we'll hear from the member for New England. We're waiting and wondering whether the member for New England is going to be on the minister's side and talk about resilience, adaptation and climate or whether he's going to back in the member for Calare, who did anything but talk about climate, adaptation and resilience. I'll be sticking around to have a bit of a listen. If I was a betting man I'd reckon he'd be with the member for Calare. I don't know whether the minister can count, but this is becoming a very, very interesting dynamic within the coalition.

Back in 2012, something very historic happened. The states and the Commonwealth agreed, with the support of the National Farmers' Federation, the coalition in this parliament and other farm groups, that we needed to revisit the way we treat drought. We entered into an intergovernmental agreement, which started from scratch. The agreement comes to an end on 1 July, which is this week, and in those intervening five years we were supposed to have developed together a coherent drought policy together which recognised changing circumstances. We have not done that; this government has not done that. That is a great disappointment, and it will be an ongoing disappointment to farmers right around the country.

Extending the farm household allowance won't be a bad thing, but it won't change much, and the Regional Investment Corporation is a joke. It's got no site, it's got no CEO, it's got no staff and it's a waste of money—a terrible waste.


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