House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Agriculture

2:21 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. Will the Deputy Prime Minister outline to the House how the Morrison-Joyce government's national plan is ensuring the availability of critical workers to regional Australia now to support the agriculture sector? How important is understanding time lines when making decisions?

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for his question. He understands, as a former fuel distributor, how important timeliness is, especially timeliness so you can get the proper products to the proper areas at the proper time for the delivery—for all sorts of things, including the manufacturing of food products, which is vitally important. Now in Western Australia it is time for the harvest. We've got about 10 million tonnes of wheat, in excess of four million tonnes of barley and over two million tonnes of canola that has to come off. This can't happen unless there are the appropriate workers. The appropriate workers must arrive there. This morning we heard reports of them needing up to 600 farmworkers. But currently Western Australia and Queensland are yet to sign on to the agreements to get machinery drivers into the grain sector right now, to get these workers across, to bring these workers in.

It's alright having the rhetoric of keeping a place locked up, but circumstances arise where you have to get your economy going, and the economy of Western Australia and the agricultural economy of Western Australia are going to need these workers. They're going to need the capacity of government to make the changes so we can bring these people in. We can't just have the place locked up for ever. It won't work that way. It's not just the fact that we won't get these crops off, but our major markets that these crops go to—one of which is a key, crucial economic ally of Australia, Indonesia—are also needing this product. They will be watching to see—because 80 per cent of Western Australia's wheat crop is exported—whether they can manage to get that crop in.

It goes beyond that. It goes down the line to the other things that are produced from agricultural products, such as reconstituted skim milk, milk solids, vegetable oil, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar, glucose syrup and fat-reduced cocoa powder. I know the member for Grayndler knows about these, because they are the ingredients of the Viennetta ice cream. The Viennetta ice cream! He has nostalgic views about the Viennetta ice cream. He went to a shop the other day—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I say to the Deputy Prime Minister—

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

and had to buy one to remind him of his childhood—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat or at least cease talking for a second. There's no way what the Deputy Prime Minister is saying fits in with the substance of the question. He's tried. He's bent it as best he can, but it's not going to work.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, Mr Speaker, you have to give me 10 out of 10 for trying, don't you?

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't have to do anything, actually!

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

But what is important is the honesty and the capacity for us to make sure that we can get that crop off. We are going to be making sure we do it, because we will be delivering on the plan, not only to keep the people safe but to keep our economy going.