House debates

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions without Notice


2:28 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Will the minister update the House on steps the Morrison government is taking to protect and secure our natural environment, including improving soil health for our agricultural sector?

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Dawson for his question and for his ongoing outstanding advocacy for the farmers in his electorate. I know that in March this year he was in Mackay with Paul Schembri, Chair of CANEGROWERS Queensland. He was there announcing a project about water quality and the Great Barrier Reef. But we can't do it without our farmers. We can't do it without our magnificent sugarcane farmers in the member for Dawson's electorate, in the member for Capricornia's electorate, in the envoy for the Great Barrier Reef's electorate and so on. This is an example of farmers getting on with the job. The natural environment is inextricably linked with farming, forestry and fishing. We don't see agriculture and the environment at opposite ends of the spectrum at all. We know that our farmers, many of them represented by people on this side of the House, look after over 60 per cent of Australia's land mass. We can talk about policies, and we do, but we can't do this without our farmers.

There is no better example than the Landcare movement, which celebrated 30 years just recently. As someone who was a family farmer for 17 years, and secretary of my local Landcare movement, I learnt so much from the wisdom of those land managers around us—some of them are Indigenous Australians, who have been managing this land longer than the farmers. The point that the environment portfolio would like to emphasise is that it and agriculture are not in competition. We are not in opposition. We are working together. We know that between us we can help with one of the key environmental and agricultural outcomes, which is healthy soils.

I was absolutely delighted to see that Major General Michael Jeffery has been reappointed as the national soils advocate. No-one who listens to Michael Jeffery could not but be a convert, if you weren't already, to the cause of healthy soils. He spoke at the National Drought Summit and he was outstanding. I'm delighted, Prime Minister, that his term has been extended and, in fact, his office has been embedded, ongoing, into this government. Healthy soils and sequester carbon support life. They support our precious biodiversity. They make a difference. And, in a continent with fragile soils, as Australia is, the more we can work to produce those healthy soils the better, and we have done that. We have continued $1.1 billion from the last budget to the next phase of the National Landcare Program, providing funding to June 2023. We will keep on this case due to the benefits from this project.

I'm delighted that the minister for water resources and drought preparedness, through his strong representation of farmers, now has $100 million to disburse—all about drought preparedness—to build that resilience into our farmers, to support our landscape and to love and to look after our environment.