Wednesday, 3 February 2021
I've sung the national anthem a few times in the last week, and I increasingly love these words: 'We've golden soil and wealth for toil, our home is girt by sea, our land abounds in nature's gifts of beauty rich and rare.' My electorate of Mallee epitomises this anthem, except for the bit about the sea; we're girt by the Murray! For those who have never been to Mallee, I can assure you it is beautiful—rich red soil as far as the eye can see, with the extraordinary Murray River winding through its perimeter, and the bluest skies in Australia.
Historically, there have been many who have seen not just the beauty of this unique country but the opportunity for wealth. The horticulture industry is evidence of many such opportunities. Indeed, the fruits and nuts produced in the red dirt along the Murray River are among the region's most valuable exports. In my role as member for Mallee, I have met incredible multigenerational farmers. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Darren and Anne-Marie Minter, of Minter Magic in Iraak. Five generations of Darren's family have toiled the dirt in Iraak for almost 100 years, and there is no sign that Darren is slowing down anytime soon. In fact, he is expanding. Like many growers, Darren has learned to adapt and take opportunities with both hands. The Minters are famous for their asparagus, which is exported around the world and found on our local supermarket shelves. The biggest challenge for Darren's business and for others in the hort industry is workforce. Darren's answer is to diversify away from labour-intensive crops like asparagus and move into crops that can be harvested by machines, such as almonds. Such decisions face many growers around the country. Providing growers with legal, sustainable sources of low- and semi-skilled workers for seasonal work is something I'm passionate about achieving.