House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019


Murray Electorate: Agriculture Industry

4:54 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Murray, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to run through a snapshot of the Goulburn Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia. In Murray, the food and grocery manufacturing industry generates over $5 billion of output annually. This economic activity is led by the dairy sector, which contributes over $2 billion annually, and fruit and vegetable produce manufacturing, which has an output of over $1.6 billion. Employment in the Murray food and grocery sector comes in at 8,500, where the dairy sector is over 2,700. Another 2,000 workers work in the local fruit and vegetable farming sector, and over a thousand people work in the meat manufacturing sector. This is a very, very productive area of Australia, and it is estimated that over $3.89 billion in exports come from the Murray region, including dairy, which is exported at a value of $1.69 billion. These statistics show you exactly how important the processing and agricultural sectors of Murray are to Australia.

We continue to see growers and local farmers invest their own money and their businesses' money in furthering the processing opportunities throughout the Goulburn Valley. We really need some support for these industries into the future. Just recently Peter Thompson and the Geoffrey Thompson Fruit Packing Company have been making a push to increase the productivity of their business via a world-class packing and grading facility. This is one part of the fruit and vegetable sector that is lagging behind our competitor nations. Our ability to speed up the grading and packing process in the Goulburn Valley for a whole range of our fruit growers is something that is desperately needed within the whole industry to actually bring our sector in line with world efficiencies. Our whole cropping sector has had a disastrous year, with many of our crops being cut for hay. A lot of that hay was sold to our drought-affected farmers across New South Wales.

Another input cost that is really affecting our farming sector at the moment is the price of water. Water is currently trading at $500 a megalitre on the temporary market. Hay is trading at $335 a tonne, excluding GST, grain is at $550 a tonne, and there is a very poor market for dairy cows. In relation to the cost of water, what has recently been announced by the Labor Party is quite worrying and threatening. Labor wants to reintroduce indiscriminate buybacks, where they will go to a market full of vulnerable customers and indiscriminately pick those that need to sell their water. This is the worst, most destructive and most dangerous of all water policies. For Labor to threaten to reintroduce indiscriminate buybacks, which will leave a whole raft of stranded farmers at the end of an irrigation channel, is not only dumb but extremely destructive and dangerous. What we need is a carefully thought out policy in relation to circumstances in which we need to deliver more water from our irrigation sector to the rivers.

I've got a letter here from Suzie Jacobs, who effectively put it this way: 'Our dairy cattle are worth $500 a head and we're in the process now of taking them off to Greenham abattoir, where we might receive $500 per head. Our little business generates about $160,000 to $200,000 per annum. If we go out of business'—which it looks like they're going to—'that's another $200,000 that will leave our community.' Every time the Labor Party move these reckless policies, they force farmers out of business, and this sort of money leaves regional Australia.

The stunt that happened this week in relation to a floor price for milk means the Labor Party have no understanding of the fact that the vast majority of our milk in Australia finds its way overseas and therefore our products are at the beck and call of the world milk price; that it has very little to do with what could be a floor price here in Australia. The Labor Party either don't understand or don't care or can't quite work out that these policies are, in fact, very degrading to people who are going through a really tough time.

Question agreed to.

House adjourned at 1 8:59