MOTIONS -- Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Industries


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:40): What a pleasure, as always, to follow Senator Sterle from the capital city of Perth in Western Australia, particularly on a motion dealing with the Labor government's abject failure to support Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries. I will start by demonstrating why the Labor Party has absolutely no interest in agriculture or fisheries and little interest in forestry. It comes down to simple mathematics. The number of rural seats held by the Labor Party in this parliament you could count on one handand I will count them shortly. Every other rural seat in Australia is represented by either the Liberal Party or the National Partyand why It is because they do support our primary industriesour agriculture, our fisheries and our forestry industries. The electors of rural and regional Australiathe electorates that provide the food and fibre for our country and for exportdecide themselves that the people they want to represent them in this parliament are not members of the Labor Party; they are members of the Liberal and National parties. That is because they understand that the Liberal and National parties have a genuine interest, commitment and understanding for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, whilst the Labor Party has little interest whatsoever.

I said I could count on one hand the number of seats in rural and regional Australia held by the Labor Party. They are Capricornia and Blair in my state of Queensland and Eden-Monaro, Richmond and Page in Senator Williams's state of New South Wales.

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Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will come to Tasmania. There are five seats in Tasmania. I have a special interest in Tasmania, which I will elaborate on very shortly. On the five mainland states the seats are Capricornia and Blair in Queensland and Eden-Monaro, Richmond and Page in New South Wales. As opposed to that, there would be 30 or 40 other rural seats in Australiaall represented well by Liberal and National party members.

Let us have a look at Capricornia, held by the Labor Partymainly on the strength of what used to be a supportive railway vote in Rockhampton. Even the railway men detest the Labor Party now, after the previous Labor government sold Queensland's railways after promising not to do so. Capricornia is called the beef capital of AustraliaRockhampton; the beef capital of Australiaand is represented by a member in this parliament who destroyed the beef cattle industry in Northern Australia by supporting the quite outrageously ridiculous decision of the agriculture minister, Senator Ludwig, to ban live cattle exports to Indonesia. In so doing, they put pressure on all of the northern beef industry and, by attrition, the southern parts of Australia, thus putting pressure on every element of the beef industry. What a great representative the member for Capricornia is for agricultural Australia!

The member for Blairthe temporary member for Blair, I might sayrepresents an agricultural area. But Labor, by supporting things like the carbon tax, by removing diesel fuel rebates, have added to the costs for every farmer in his electorate. But does he stick up for his farmers No, he toes the Labor Party line and votes against the farmers. It is a similar situation in Eden-Monaro.

The member for Richmond has an electorate which has big fishing, beef and sugar industries. And what have the Labor Party done to those three industries As I have already mentioned, they have destroyed the beef industry; they are about to destroy what is left of Australia's fishing industry; and our sugar industry will continue to struggle under a Labor administration. I will come back to that. In Page, the member actually led the charge to destroy live cattle exports from Australia and in so doing destroyed the live cattle industry.

Then there are the five seats in Tasmania that are currently, regrettably, held by Labor members, or at least until the next election

Senator Thorp: That's not true. If you're going to

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am sorry; one of them is an Independentbut try to point me to any important legislation on which he has not voted with Labor and you will understand why I include him in the Labor Party. Tasmania is a state rich in natural resources that had the most sustainable, well managed timber industry in the world. But, thanks to Labor rolling over yet again for the Greens, the world's best-managed, most sustainable forest industry has been destroyed. I can never forgive the Labor Party for rolling over for the Greens.

There was a time in 2004 when the ALP held strong in the interests of workers' jobs in Tasmania and joined, along with at least the 'F' part of the CFMEU, the Howard government in saving the timber industry and workers' jobs in Tasmania. Since then, because Ms Gillard desperately needs the Greens in order to retain powerand it is all about power and only about power as far as the Labor Party is concernedyou have the five Tasmanian Labor Party members, or Labor-supporting members, playing a major role in the destruction of Tasmania's once grand, sustainable, best-managed timber industry.

Madam Acting Deputy President Crossin, you also have a fishing industry going through a tough time. But Minister Burke as Labor's fisheries minister said to the fishing industry: 'You need to be more efficient, you need to catch the specific quota in a more efficient way, and here's what you should do. You should get one of those big trawlers from overseas and bring it here. That way, although you won't catch more fishthere's a quotayou'll catch it more efficiently and effectively. So why don't you do that' There were some foolish people who believed the Labor Partyalthough why would anyone believe the Labor Party 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' hand on heart, and what is the first thing that happened They introduced a carbon tax. 'There will be no interference in the Medicare rebate.' What is the first thing they do Bring in the

Senator Polley: Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order on relevance to the topic. The carbon price has nothing to do with the motion before the chair.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Crossin ): Senator Macdonald, I remind you that the motion before us relates to agriculture, fisheries and forestry policies.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am talking about Tasmania and the impost of the carbon tax on every element of agriculture, fisheries and forestry. But that is not why I raised it, even though it is right on message. I raised it because I was wondering why you would believe anything the current Prime Minister saysanything at all. She has form. Didn't she promise the people of Australia that her party would not be part of any move to change the definition of marriage And what have we been debating today in the chamber! So it is a matter of trust. What can you believe Ask the farmers around Australia if they will ever believe any Labor promise in the future.

Tell me what the carbon tax will do to the cost of production for Australia's farmers, fishermen and foresters. Every element of their operational costs will increase, but there is no compensation for them, and they are all price takers. This is the thing the Labor Party do not understand, because none of them are involved in rural and regional industries at all. They do not understand. The sugar industry is a price taker. The sugar industry cannot say, 'We've got to pay more for our electricity and our fuel, so we'll add that onto our world market price,' because, when it went out into the world market, the world market would say: 'Bad luck, Australia! You get what we're paying everyone else. You know what the world market price is, and that's what you'll get. Don't try passing on to us a carbon tax that your stupid government put in place and which our governments would never countenance,' because other governments know that the introduction of a carbon tax just makes their primary producers even less competitive.

Tasmania has five Labor members who have done nothing to protect not only the forestry industry but the fishing and agricultural industries as well. In comparison, have a look at the knowledge of and commitment to agriculture, forestry and fisheries on this side of the chamber. There are farmers like Senator Heffernan, Senator Williams and Senator Nash. Senator Edwards is a very successful and productive agriculturalist. Senator Scullion is a real fisherman. And that is just in the Senate. I could go through dozens of lower house Liberals and Nationals who are farmers or fishermenAlby Schultz, for example, was in meat processing. I do not think there are any foresters, but certainly there are many people who are committed to the forestry, fisheries and agricultural industries of Australia.

If you need an example of the Labor Party's regard for agricultural industries, I again refer you to the live cattle export ban. There were many pastoralists, including many Indigenous pastoralists, who had been making a living out of the export of live cattle or who had made investment decisions on the basis of that export trade. Overnight, without any warning, the trade was stopped. As a result of that, a very high percentage of landowners in Northern Australia now face financial ruin. It has not always been an easy industry. The people in it had always borrowed moneybut they had worked out very carefully how they could pay their interest and pay their way. Then suddenly, overnight, without warning the trade was stopped. As a result, there is a group of pastoralistsupon whom many Indigenous communities and families reliedwho are going out of business. And the Labor Party claims that it is interested in farmerswhat a joke!

I predict that, after the next election, the members for the five rural mainland seats currently held by the Labor party and the members for the five Tasmanian seats currently held by the Labor Party will not be returningbecause the farmers in those seats are just sick of a government which has done these things to a range of agricultural industries. We have a minister, Senator Ludwig, who has little interest in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. He goes through the motions but he has no courage and no conviction. He is not prepared to stand up to the Greens, his leader or the left wing of his party. He simply rolls overto the detriment of Australia's farmers.

People from the capital citieswhich is all of the Labor senators here and most of their members in the other placecan sit here and read about how things like the live cattle export ban impact on pastoralists and their families or how the marine reserves decision impacts on people in the fishing industry or how the stupidity of following the Greens hurts the forestry industry. They can read about that in the paper and think they are concerned, but I ask some of those Labor members and senators to go out and talk to people. I ask them to go out and see and go out and feel the despair and frustration of families whose lives have been ruined by the agriculture, fisheries and forestry policies of this government.

The fishing industry, if it hasn't already, will soon realise that there is no such thing as certainty under this government. A minister of the Crown encourages someone to invest big money in a big trawler. But then that same minister, now in another portfoliothe fishermen having followed his adviceturns around and destroys their investment and indeed their industry.

Let us talk about my own state of Queensland. Where I live, in the lower Burdekin area of North Queensland, there are a couple of very good aquaculture businessesthere are quite a few up there, in fact. One of them has been trying to set up a state-of-the-art aquaculture prawn farm at a place called Guthalungra for almost 5 years. I forget exactly what they said, and surely this cannot be right, but I think they told me they had spent $10 millionif it was not $10 million, it was a lot of moneyjust trying to get through the red and green tape to set up the farm. This is a farm which will provide Australia with clean, fresh seafood and will create a lot of jobs in my locality. But under this government it takes them three, four or five years and millions of dollars to fight through the green and red tape to try and get thereand they are not even there yet.

There was a cassava proposal, again in my local areaI am being a bit parochial herewith a great idea for a new biofuel source. But this government, through the environment ministerthe same guy who was so duplicitous in his dealings with the fishing industryhas put them through every hoop in the world under the EPBC Act. This, I regret to say, is the Labor Party all over. They have no interest and no understanding.

Recently, when I was in Japan and Korea as part of a trade delegation, people there were predictingas were some Chinese people I was talking tothat, whereas the last couple of decades have been the decades of the mining boom, the next couple of decades will be the decades of the food boom. And what are we doing in Australia to help provide food security for Australia and the world We have governments like the current one, who go out of their way to destroy rural industry. Rather than encourage them, as a coalition government will do, we have, as the motion before the Senate quite rightly notes, 'the Labor government's abject failure to support Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries'. For this sector of Australia and for Australia's future, I can only hope that there is an election as soon as possible so that these industries can have some hope and some vision for the future.

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