House debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Supporting Australian Farmers) Bill 2018; Second Reading

10:28 am

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm sure they could do that. In fact, for all of the folks listening at home, wherever you may be, if you want to support drought stricken communities come and visit us. Come and support the hotels, the restaurants, the pubs and the clubs.

Back to Bathurst RSL, 20c from every coffee sold at the club's coffee shop, The Grind, is going to the appeal. And in the popular weekly members draw, if a member wins cash the club will match that amount for Buy a Bale. So far this month the club, with the help of its many members, has raised over $22,000, with plenty more to come. Individual members have also been making donations. For example, one anonymous member left $2,000 on the bar to help those crippled by drought conditions. The Bathurst Filipino community, for example, kicked in $600. The region is looking forward to more hay on the way, with loads expected to arrive in Bathurst on 24 September.

Special thanks to Ian Miller, the president; Ron Hollebone, the vice-president and Harry Robertson, the vice-president and treasurer. Thanks to the directors: Brett Kenworthy, Les Anderson, Paul Hennessy and Coral Miller. And, of course, thanks to the general manager, Peter Sargeant, who has generally let staff wear jeans for the month if they buy a bale. Congratulations to Bathurst RSL club for all of their hard work.

The hard work continues right across the region. For example, the Millthorpe Village Committee held a hugely successful farmers day on Sunday at Redmond oval to support those affected by drought. After I attended the show, where there were many farmers, I also dropped in to see how the farmers day went. It was an opportunity for locals to gather and listen to the representatives from the various assistance bodies and organisations, to hear about what services and support are available. For example, there were representatives from the NSW Farmers Association, the New South Wales Rural Assistance Authority as well as mental health workers. It was highly successful. There were about 200 people there on the day. About 400 sausage and steak sandwiches were served—it wouldn't be a country event without the sausage sizzle. It was very strongly supported by the Millthorpe branch of the CWA.

The Millthorpe Village Committee has around 100 hardworking members. Special thanks for organising the day needs to go to Sam Yeates, president; Russell Keogh, vice-president; Sue Marsh, treasurer; Nick Anganostaros, secretary; and Mary Dowrick, publicity officer. The farmers day itself was a suggestion of committee member Lyndall Harrison, who runs the annual Millthorpe Garden Ramble. Congratulations to the Millthorpe Village Committee on their successful day. It's great to see grassroots community groups stepping in to support our farmers, and, as I said, that's what we do in the country.

Have a look at Mudgee, where you've got the 200BALES campaign. It started off with a group of volunteers getting together and asking the community to sponsor a bale of hay for farmers. They were aiming for 200 bales, but they've well and truly exceeded that target. It's been a godsend to many farmers. Many of them don't ask for the help, but when the trucks roll up they are truly grateful. I've been out in that region talking to farmers who've been the recipient of the 200BALES campaign, and it's just lifted their spirits. So to Glenn Box, Kelly Dray, Will Bateman and the whole team—all of the hay runners—I just want to thank you on behalf of a grateful community for all of the work that you're doing.

As I've said, this drought has taken a heavy mental toll on our farmers as well. There are some wonderful people out there doing wonderful work, including the folks from Lifeline. I was at the launch of Lifeline's Drought Tool Kit recently in Orange, and there were many Lifeline volunteers there who give up their time. They don't get paid for it, but they work tirelessly through the night and through the day just to make sure that, when people call, there's someone there on the end of the line, and sometimes just being able to talk to someone can make all of the difference. Being out on farms can be isolating for people, and some of the farms are very physically isolated. Some are up in the high country, for example, in different parts of the Calare electorate. I think that just being able to talk to someone and knowing that someone's there if you need them and that you're not alone can make all of the difference. So I'd like to thank Lifeline and all of their hardworking volunteers. I also thank the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health. They've got the Glove Box Guide to Mental Health. Basically, both of these resources let farmers and farming families and communities know where they can get help. I've actually been into farmers' homes, talking to them, and on the table there has been the Glove Box Guide to Mental Health. Both of these publications, from Lifeline and the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, are distributed through local publications, and I just wanted to thank them for that, because their work is largely unseen but the community should know that they're out there working really hard in very difficult times.

So we need to be backing our farmers to the hilt in this time of drought. During the recent economic slowdown, it was the Australian farmers and the farm sector which got Australia through, so they've actually been doing the heavy lifting economically for a long time now, and we can't take them for granted. If we want a strong and vibrant farm sector, we need to keep backing them through these dry times. I think people in the cities tend to take their food for granted. They just think that it's something that appears, but we can't take our farmers for granted. We need to be backing them and ramping up relief as these conditions worsen. I fully support this bill and commend it to the House.

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