PUBLIC INTEREST DEBATE - Drought Assistance
Updated: Apr 4
I thought this was going to be a bit of a love-in where we could actually talk about supporting farmers. I did not realise it was going to be an attack on political parties.
Regional members well know that farming is a precarious occupation in this day and age. Six days after I started in this Parliament we had massive super storms and floods, and January last year was the driest year in my electorate since 1932.
On behalf of my constituents I have been meeting with different Government members—I even met with Scot MacDonald, the former Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter—the member for Port Stephens and our local Federal member. We asked if we could get some tankers from the emergency services because some farmers in our area cannot water their vegetable crops. We have dairy farmers who cannot flush their irrigation equipment. We also have some people who are just not able to get any drinking water.
We made representations to all the appropriate Ministers. We got a speedy response—after 4½ months— from the former Minister for Primary Industries saying, "Sorry, we cannot help you." Pretty sad.
We want to work with the Government. We will do whatever we can to help the people in our State. A lot of members on this side of the House have been visiting regional New South Wales. I have been to Lismore, Murwillumbah, Tweed, Coffs Harbour, Nambucca and Casino, and before that I was in Gloucester, Clarence, Kempsey, Macksville and Wauchope. I have been continually talking to farmers in those communities.
Before the election I was at Moree, Armadale, Guyra and Inverell. When I was shadow Minister for Small Business I went into those communities and I saw small business owners struggling. Inverell lost 13 shops in the two weeks before I arrived and on the day I arrived after the Tingha fires they lost another two.
There is just not enough support for them. We need to do more for our communities.
I remember living in Walcha as a young woman. I had to shop in Armidale because the shops in Walcha did not have what you wanted. That is exactly what is happening now. People from Inverell have to go to Armidale for things they used to be able to get in town. What happens when they get to Armidale? They do not see anyone they know, their friends or neighbours. They do not have that incidental caring, incidental counselling and support. All they get from those opposite is a counselling number.
The Government is not adequately supporting those communities and we need to do more. The people in the bush are talking about the billions and billions of dollars being spent on infrastructure in Sydney and they are not getting it in their communities. Every time they see a crane in the sky over Sydney they are worried. All they see is their chance at a life for their children and their families—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Tweed to order for the first time.
Ms JENNY AITCHISON: Their stock and crops are dying while this Government focuses on Sydney.
We need to do so much better. We will not do it by picking on members who are standing up for their communities.
As members of Parliament we represent all of New South Wales and we should all work together for drought relief.
The Government has not moved quickly enough: We know that and they know that. It should have done more; its lack of action is embarrassing.
Last year 13,000 people in my electorate signed a petition to get more relief from this Government. It just has taken too long. Mick Veitch, the former shadow Minister for Primary Industries, and I were holding roundtables about this in December 2017.
This Government needed to do more. This drought will not get solved by thoughts and prayers for rain. It certainly will not be solved by those opposite taking pot shots against the Chamber.