Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Supporting Australian Farmers) Bill 2018; Second Reading
Rubbish. One of the advantages of being here for a long time is that you have a corporate memory of these things.
This legislation is very, very important. This legislation, to be honest, is not going to help farmers through the current drought; this legislation is all about preparedness for the next one. During the current drought, we are supplying farmers with household support. That money is to provide some dignity: to take the pressure from the daily lives of farmers who need to worry about how they're going to clothe and get food for their families, and other basic essentials.
Major General Day has been appointed as National Drought Coordinator to facilitate and coordinate some of the programs that are in train now. I know that last week he was speaking to the charities to try and get a coordinated approach, so that we don't have areas that are falling through the cracks.
With the help of social media, this drought has brought the plight of farmers to people in the cities. The support that's coming from people away from farms has been exceptional, and I know it's very much appreciated. But one of the downsides of social media campaigns is that the true situation is probably not presented. When people see a picture of a skinny cow, there could be various reasons why that cow is in that condition, and it's not always as portrayed. As I've touched on earlier, one of my concerns about the current drought is that farmers are being portrayed as a group that have lost control of their own industry, and their own destiny, and that's far from the truth. They're incredibly resilient.
I don't come into this place speaking from theory or philosophy; I've actually lived through droughts as a farmer. Several times in my life I've gone through drought seasons where we haven't grown a grain for the entire year. I know what it's like trying to purchase sugarcane tops from the coast to feed cattle when you've exhausted your own supplies. I know what it's like to spend night after night on a machine baling hay in preparation for the next drought. I know the work that's involved in this. I stand up here today in support of the farmers that I represent and the farmers of Australia, knowing that this drought will end, knowing that they will step up and be back in production very, very quickly and knowing that the vast majority of them out there now, while it's incredibly difficult, are managing this because they have prepared. They have prepared because of previous policies put in place by this government.
This legislation that we're talking about today will certainly make preparation more appropriate and easier for them to do for the next drought. When production does return, they'll be able to take advantage of the markets that are opening up now through the free trade agreements that are being negotiated—some are already agreed to; some are before the House at the moment—which will enable them to trade on the global stage at an advantage over our competitors. I support this legislation. I know that the farmers I represent support this legislation. They are pleased to see a government that's actually putting in practical measures, not the philosophical, ideologically driven, patronising discussions that we're hearing from the other side.