Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Supporting Australian Farmers) Bill 2018; Second Reading
They might want to ask a question on that. Maybe the shadow minister for agriculture might get a question today and show some interest. I'm going to help you out. I'm going to help you out. I'm going to ask the Labor leader for tactics, Mr Tony Burke, the Manager of Opposition Business, to see if he can get the member for Hunter a question today. I plead with you: give the member for Hunter a question today. Give him some relevance. I'm helping you out here. Give him some relevance.
What we are doing here is building on the $4 billion agriculture white paper. It's great to see the dam that we built, Chaffey Dam, the dams in the Midlands in Tasmania that we are building and the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline that we are building. It's great to see the pipeline that we are building in the Macalister Irrigation District. And what about Rookwood weir, which we're building? The Labor Party fought it all the way through. They ran to any rathole they could to look after their Greens mates and Greens preferences. We're trying to get infrastructure built. I know the member for Kennedy. He's a big fan of Hells Gate. This is a great project. You've got no hope of ever getting something like that past the Labor Party. They'll be looking after their Greens mates, the same Greens mates they look after when they don't want to open up Galilee Basin. It's incredibly peculiar that the member for Hunter, formerly supported by blue-collar workers, has turned his back on them as he turned his back on the farmers. They've given up and become the party for the inner suburban areas, and they're getting a vote to match.
This bill is part and parcel. It's not the fight; it's the start of a whole range of issues that we have to deal with in what is the worst drought on record in certain areas. The rainfall of Tamworth so far this year is slightly better than the annual rainfall of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. It is so devastating that what is happening right now is that there are gum trees—and they're a pretty good indicator of how dry it gets—dying because of a lack of water. We have a national crisis, and we have to deal with it as a national crisis.
We have to hope that the efforts of this parliament are put towards a constructive debate to drive policy. So I'm happy that we have made changes to the farm household allowance, and I commend the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, who's just now come into the chamber. We've gone a long way. I remember when the Labor Party were in government only 367 people got access to the farm household allowance. Now we have well in excess of 8,000 people who have had access to it, and this is so vitally important. It's uncapped. About a quarter of a billion dollars has been spent on it, and that's so vitally important. That's really money that is going on the table to help people. And I know there's more we can do to streamline that application process, and I know the minister for agriculture is working on that. We had discussions about precisely that this morning, and the minister for agriculture is doing an absolutely remarkable job, a splendid job. He's hard at work. Because of the vastness of his electorate, the member for Maranoa has such a great understanding of how agriculture works.
I know that the member for Maranoa, the minister for agriculture, would dearly love to be challenged in question time by the vociferous and cogent questions delivered by the member for Hunter. But he isn't! The member for Maranoa might as well do sudoku when he comes in here because he never gets a question from the member for Hunter.