Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Since 2016-17, the government has promised to spend $145 million on improving Australia's cattle supply chains but has only spent $40 million, an underspend of more than $100 million. Why?
I'm not going to take lectures from a Labor Party who shut down the live cattle trade in a panicked decision after one television program. Under our government, we're working towards a $100 billion agricultural industry by 2030. This afternoon I'm looking forward to sitting down with the National Farmers Federation, and not only to talk about those projects to achieve and realise what can be gained in our agricultural sector. The agricultural sector at the moment, of course, is going through a difficult period because of the drought, and we've seen a more than 10 per cent fall in farm GDP because of that. But what we do have are the plans to continue to build it. What I am so impressed by is the resilience of the Australian agricultural sector—that, despite the setbacks, they continue to invest and realise their future—
I will call the Prime Minister. Again, I take the point—
Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting—
The member for Hunter is not helping—
Mr Tehan interjecting—
neither is the Minister for Education. The question did ask about some budgeted figures. It also asked about the cattle supply chain. The Prime Minister is certainly being relevant to the policy topic, and I'm also just very conscious he's not quite a minute in. I'm listening to the Prime Minister.
It gives me the opportunity to again say that the work we're doing to support our agricultural sector—and I will invite the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture here in the House to add to that, and I know that the Deputy Prime Minister would also like to add to it. But let's not forget that the Labor Party, when they had the opportunity to support our cattle industry, shopped them off. They sold them out, and they did so as a result of their addiction to policies of panic and crisis. Our government does not act with a sense of panic or crisis. We act in the stable and certain way which gives people confidence in the future and enables them to invest and plan for the future, and that's what we're doing in the agricultural sector. I invite the minister to add to the answer.
The $145 million program, which is listed in the budget as being for cattle supply chains, is an infrastructure project. The minister who has just been called—it's not in his portfolio. It's in the portfolio of the Deputy Prime Minister, who was just complaining that we were taking a point of order over who it went to. But it's his portfolio. The dollar figure, the title of the program there—
The Deputy Prime Minister will cease interjecting! I'll make a couple of points to the opposition. I do thank the Manager of Opposition Business for pointing that out; it might have been handy to have that in the question! Notwithstanding that, whilst it is an infrastructure project, it is an infrastructure project about cattle—I'm not trying to get too technical—so I think that does have an agricultural element to it. I call the minister.
This is about respect and about restoring a relationship that was destroyed by a panic in 2011, overnight destroying the live cattle trade. What we are doing is slowly putting an environment around the agricultural industry, particularly the live export industry—$1.8 billion a year it is worth to this country. It is important that we continue to make that investment and make that money available for industry to continue to work through the supply chain, particularly more important now, since the ratification of the Indonesian free trade agreement, a proud moment for our nation to be able to trade with our nearest neighbour—267 million people on our doorstep that we now have the opportunity to trade with to give opportunity to our farmers, who will be able to recover quicker from this drought because of the free trade agreements that we have put in place. This is about a suite of measures that complement everything in the agriculture sector, whether it's in infrastructure, whether it's in the agriculture department or whether it's in water, because we understand regional Australia, we understand agriculture and we will deliver for them.