Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Given the significant challenges facing our agriculture sector as a result of the drought and recent bushfires, how is the Morrison-McCormack government backing our agriculture industry during—
Opposition members interjecting—
The member for Mallee will resume her seat. I just say to the members for McEwen and Bruce—of course—and others who are up there, they might be having a few jokes amongst themselves, but I can't hear the question. I would like to hear it again.
Opposition members interjecting—
I tell you what, if you keep impeding me hearing the question, I can solve it quickly. I just want to hear the question, if that's okay by the Second Deputy Speaker.
I thank the member for Mallee for her question. She has seen firsthand the devastation of this drought in her electorate in western Victoria, which is still at risk of bushfires. We have to understand that the bushfire season is still alive in Victoria and we need to make sure that we prepare for those fires. But we also need to be agile enough to help with the recovery in the here and now. That's why the federal government, because of our economic stewardship, have been able to commit more than $10 million to both fire and drought recovery. In some places, where the drought and fire intersects, we're doing both, with $8 billion for the drought under our national drought strategy, under our three pillars.
The first pillar, in the here and now, is supporting the farmers and putting money in their pockets. Under the second pillar, we are supporting the communities that support the farmers, because the drought extends past the farm gate and into the communities that support them. Under the third pillar, for the first time, we are looking to the future. We're looking to build the dams and infrastructure. We're saying to the states who have the responsibility to dig the holes: 'Here's the money. Here's $3.2 billion. Come and get it.' But we've also said, 'Here's the Future Drought Fund.' For the first time there is a fund that invests in building the resilience of agriculture in future droughts, a $5 billion fund giving a $100 million dividend each year.
With the fires, we've committed over $150 million in direct support immediately to help those who have been impacted by the fires and a $2 billion initial investment in rebuilding the lives and the communities that have been impacted by these fires. You have to understand that these are now fragile regional economies, ones that need sound policy settings around them and need government not to put shockwaves through them with reckless policies not conceived and not costed. That's what the alternative government said last weekend when they said they committed to a zero emissions target by 2050; they sent shockwaves. You have to ask, why would they do that with no costings and without understanding what impact that would have? But their 2030 target, only 10 years down the track—the member for Hindmarsh has said, 'We're going to have to take advice about what proper responsible'—
I ask the minister to resume his seat.
Mr Littleproud interjecting—
No, your microphone's off. I refer the minister to what I've said about the ability to briefly compare and contrast. I'm glad I listened to the question.
Mr Morrison interjecting—
No. I can tell the Prime Minister and others that what was actually asked did not include alternatives. I listened very closely to the question. I have a transcript of it here. Let me be blunt: I'm not sure it was planned, but I know what was asked. The minister was not asked for alternatives, so he needs to confine himself to the question, which was: given the significant changes facing the agriculture sector as a result of drought and bushfires, how is the government backing industry during difficult times? It ended with the words 'difficult times'.
Being someone from regional Australia, I do fear the alternatives, but I will stick to our plan. Because of the economic stewardship that we have put in place, understanding how these regional economies work, knowing how intricate they are—every part is intertwined in making sure that every part of that economy is stimulated. That takes responsible stewardship. That takes understanding. That's what this government has because of the strong economic foundations that we put around our economy.