Thursday, 5 December 2019
Questions without Notice
National Party of Australia
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator McKenzie. I refer the minister to an article published in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald titled 'McCormack left in a bind as bush support dries up'. After hearing from Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party Michael McCormick, one protester asked:
Where's the passion? I haven't seen any passion from you. You're like a poker player. Get up there and say 'this is not f---ing good enough'. Get angry!
Why is the Deputy Prime Minister incapable of showing passion, and empathy for farmers who are struggling with the prolonged drought?
Thank you for your question, Senator. Everybody in the National Party—and especially our leader, Michael McCormack—is passionate about rural and regional Australia, about increasing local jobs out in the regions and making sure our regional communities have the support they need to grow and develop. It's our party that took an election promise many years ago around mobile blackspot funding. That was the National Party. Drought funding—that is delivered by National Party ministers.
The minister responsible for ensuring our mining industry continues to grow and prosper and employ Australians right across regional Australia is a National Party minister, and the minister responsible for rolling out $100 billion of infrastructure to connect our fresh, clean, green product from paddock to port and to markets around the world is the leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack. He's incredibly passionate about making sure that our regions grow and develop and that we get everything we need out there to make sure that happens—not just the practical pieces around roads and rail, bridges et cetera but making sure that we're opening up new markets for that product, backing our food processing sector and a range of issues like that.
In my own portfolio, we're incredibly passionate—and I think that was the intent of your question: to ask how passionate we are. It's incredible that a party that didn't even have an agriculture policy at the last election would stand up here and criticise the side of politics that's actually backing agriculture and backing mining. You don't have a plan for either. You want to shut the miners down and you want to make sure that agriculture doesn't have a live sheep trade. You would have shut that down.
Thank you for that very passionate answer, Minister. After listening to the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals, the same protester argued that:
The National Party's not going to exist after the next election unless you grow some spine and stand up.
Have any of the minister's colleagues expressed to her their concern that the Deputy Prime Minister lacks a spine?
No, not at all. We feel incredibly privileged to have been returned by regional Australians in every single seat that we held prior to the election and, indeed, to increase the number of senators in this place. We're incredibly proud to represent rural and regional Australia—the seven million Australians that don't live in the capital cities—to actually hold the portfolios that underpin those communities' economic prosperity and to work to make sure we've got the social capital and essential services that rural and regional Australians deserve. And that is about mobile phone connectivity. It's also about rural health service provision. It is our political party that actually took a program to set up the Murray-Darling Basin Medical Schools Network, which will see an additional 3,000 GPs and nurses practising out in rural and regional Australia, because that's where they were trained.
The same protester also said:
Barnaby Joyce was the only one who came out here yesterday; he had some spine …
Why is the former Deputy Prime Minister the only member of the National Party who has some spine, and is it any wonder that the Nationals party room is turning against its leaders?
I'm wondering whether the minister who is responsible for giving us the Basin Plan, Senator Wong, went out to meet the people who are actually subjected to living with that policy decision she took. It was your side of government that put the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in place. It is this side of the parliament that has made significant changes, that has committed not to do any more buybacks, to cap the 1,500 and to have socioeconomic criteria agreed by state based ministers to ensure that you can't take one more gigalitre out of the basin. For you to stand up here and complain about the effect of your plan on our communities—I will, as Minister for Agriculture, host any single Labor Party senator in these communities over summer. Come and talk to my farmers; come and talk to the shop owners— (Time expired)