Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Farm Household Support Amendment Bill 2019; Second Reading
I rise just to speak very briefly on the Farm Household Support Amendment Bill 2019. Obviously, it's another opportunity, Senator Sterle, to demonstrate just what this government is doing for the farmers of Australia—in this case, again, the drought-affected farmers of Australia, a topic I have spoken about in this place, it feels like a few times over the last couple of days. It is a very important mechanism by which we enable farming families to stay in their communities, to stay active in those communities, to continue buying the groceries from the local shop, to continue getting their kids into the local school, to not have to leave a particular area to find off-farm income. So the farm household allowance is a very important measure about sustaining and maintaining communities through what is the toughest possible time. I think all in this place need to understand in their bones how tough it is when—sometimes for year on year on year—the way you make your living, your livelihood, is destroyed in front of your eyes, when the livestock that you have bred and sustained, improved, sometimes over generations, are forced to be sold off, or when the crop withers in the ground.
These times are extraordinarily tough for rural communities, but rural communities are extraordinarily resilient, and they take what the climate throws at them and get on. Western Australia has been blessed with a run of pretty good seasons, in the main. There are always places in Western Australia that don't get the rain that others do, and it's good to see that the system does at least cater for that eventuality. There was always criticism flowing from the Western Australia agricultural community about previous iterations of support for farming communities—the exceptional circumstances was the one I was most involved with when I was with the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. There was the feeling that Western Australia did miss out. Looking down the farm household allowance sheet, there aren't very many receiving farm household allowance in Western Australia, but that is because we have had a run of good seasons. This measure targets assistance to where it is needed, and that is a really fundamental change, a really fundamental part of the government's approach to drought.
Again, I don't want to take up too much of the chamber's time, but I note, with gratitude, the efforts of the government in terms of supporting local government authorities in drought affected areas. Local government is a cornerstone of the bush. It provides a lot of the services and amenities that those in the city take for granted, and in the bush they just would not be there without the local government providing them. Supporting local governments in those communities is a vital way of enabling rural communities to survive and to continue to thrive under what are very difficult circumstances.
Drought isn't the only challenge faced by the bush. I think there are a few other potential problems on the horizon that we also need to start thinking about in the years ahead. There are legal actions against glyphosate, a chemical which is by all scientific analysis known to be a very safe chemical but which has been having a mounting political campaign in other parts of the world. We certainly don't want to see that infect Australia. With the resistance and fear campaigns against modern plant breeding techniques, we need a new green revolution—a green revolution in the agricultural sense I would hasten to add. We need to see the new plant varieties of a future generation that can provide the carbohydrate, the protein and the increasing demand for plant-based protein around the world. We're also seeing a threat in terms of animal activism, which, again, this government has acted swiftly on.
Farmers have the right to undertake their businesses in a safe, secure fashion. They do not deserve to be harassed. They do not deserve to be invaded. They do not deserve to have their property destroyed. They deserve to be able to, as all Australians do, carry on their business as they have for generations.
In conclusion, obviously, I do support this bill. It's a very important part of this government's overall package, a package that includes the Future Drought Fund, a package that includes assistance to local government authority, and a package that includes support for fodder and support for water infrastructure. This is one part of a much larger jigsaw. I commend the bill to the Senate.