Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Nicholls for his question. He represents towns such as Seymour, Shepparton, Yarrawonga, Echuca and Cobram, and they all fit very neatly into the supply chain. They produce a lot of food in the electorate of Nicholls. If every farmer in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area produces enough food to feed 450 foreigners and 150 Australians each year, they'd be no different from the farmers in the member for Nicholls' electorate. They're fine people and we thank them for the work that they do.
Australians, as we all know, are resilient people. They will get through this together—we will get through this together. This government is working hard every single day and every single night to make sure we get through this unprecedented time, this time of crisis. While restrictions on the movement and association of people are necessary, I want to reassure Australians that logistics and supply chains remain in place. There will be no shortage of food for families over coming months.
Just look at the facts. Our agriculture sector is a net exporter, producing enough food for 75 million people. There's more than enough to go around. Our supply chain, farm gate to plate, is effective and efficient and will continue to deliver. It will not let Australians down. Our truckies, the heartbeat of our nation, will continue to deliver food and other necessary supplies to the supermarkets. I will add in there our train drivers. Rail will play its part too of course. There is just no need to hoard food, to raid regional supermarkets. It is not on; it has to stop; people have to desist from doing it. We will not run out of food. To help make sure of that I've been chairing regular teleconferences of state Transport and Infrastructure Council members. We've liaised with the shadow minister, the member for Ballarat, and we've talked to key stakeholders. As I've said—and I'll say it again—we will get through this together. We're working to ensure that freight and logistics supply chains remain sound and continue to operate effectively. Freight and logistics are critical to this nation; particularly, as the member for Nicholls well knows, to the regions.
The aviation sector, of course, is already experiencing a considerable downturn, with most airlines operating drastically reduced services. In addition to creating the $715 million aviation package to provide a range of relief from taxes and charges, the government is working very closely, very collaboratively and very cooperatively with the airlines to make sure they'll be in a position to get people moving again once the travel restrictions are lifted. The airline sector is crucial, and we'll continue to do everything we can to ensure it survives.
As well as our various economic actions to back regional Australians and their jobs and to keep the doors of small business open, the government has set aside a billion dollars for the regions' communities and industry sector, to ensure that those most impacted by the coronavirus will receive the help they deserve and need.