House debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


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

11:25 am

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | Hansard source

I too take great pleasure in rising today to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Supporting Australian Farmers) Bill 2018. I'd hoped that the member for Lyons might stay here for a minute. He might learn something. I will not be lectured by the Labor Party about responses to drought. I have been in this place for more than a decade, and for three decades before that I was a farmer. I have lived through the Keating years, when we were paying 22 per cent interest, and I know what it's like trying to farm in that area. I was in this House when the member for Watson, as the minister for agriculture, changed drought policy. He said: 'We don't have drought policy anymore. We now won't even refer to the word "drought". We are going to refer to it as "dryness". Because of climate change, we're going to have "dryness".' He talks about farmers wanting to adapt to climate change. Well, I can tell you our farmers are way ahead of the field, mate. I have my colleague here with me. When he was the shadow minister for the environment, he got to see what my farmers are doing with zero-till, where they're conserving every drop of moisture and growing crops now in adverse climates. Your mates in the Greens want to ban glyphosate, so even that's going to be harder.

We hear the members opposite talking about there being no response to the drought. The federal government has committed $1.8 billion so far, and that figure is rising. The former minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce's white paper brought in accelerated depreciation for fodder storage, water, grain silos and fencing. Previously it was 15 to 20 years; it was brought back to three years. This legislation brings it back to instant asset write-off. If the members opposite actually knew something about regional Australia, not just what they saw on Facebook or popular TV shows, they might know that that policy has made a big difference in how farmers are impacted by this drought. I've spoken to many of my farmers who are now selling grain at a good price because they took the initiative that was offered to them by the government and have invested in their own storages. This patronising idea that I'm getting from members of the Labor Party that somehow farmers need the government to tell them what to do and are somehow poor, helpless individuals is something I find deeply offensive, and so do the people that I represent.

This legislation is very much appreciated and welcomed by the farmers that I represent, because farmers are not victims. Farmers will know that this is a genuine piece of legislation that will help them plan for the next drought. It gives them greater control not only in their preparedness for drought but in the general marketing and storage of their own product. At the moment, we have a crisis because of the shortage of hay. One of the reasons for this is that the vast majority of all hay that is produced never leaves the farm that produces it. It is cut and stored in preparation for drought. This legislation will enable farmers, when the seasons return and they end up with a wool cheque or a grain crop, to instantly depreciate the cost of a hay shed so that they can store more hay on farm, ready for the next drought.

The cash storage through the farm management deposits scheme is very important. The fact that farmers can withdraw that in less than the 12-month period during a period of drought, to enable that cash to be used to help through the drought to purchase that fodder, is very important. This morning I spoke to one of my constituents, who was unloading a load of hay, and he said that load of hay has brought his fodder bill for this drought up to $400,000. That's what one farmer has spent on fodder. He said that, because he had the money in a farm management deposit scheme, put aside for that very purpose, he's managed this drought. Those opposite would have the government in control of what farmers do.

I have heard academics in the last couple of weeks saying, 'Maybe we're going to need legislation, so that farmers can be instructed where they're going to grow certain crops, or run livestock.' I can tell you one thing that farmers don't want: they don't want the government in their lives. They want the government to provide positive programs like this: legislation like this will help them.

The member for Hunter has just walked in. Some of the comments he has made about this drought over the last month I find deeply offensive to the farmers that I represent. They are getting thoroughly sick of being treated as victims. I can tell you that the farmers in Australia are the most productive and the most innovative in the world—


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