Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:02): To say that I’m a little surprised at this subject would be putting it mildly. Prior to coming to parliament I spent 35 years farming. I’ve spent 13 years here now and still have agricultural interests, it would be fair to say. I struggle to remember a time over those more than 40 years—almost 50, in fact—when the Australian agricultural sector has been treated better by government. A lot of my friends are extremely grateful for many of the things and the reforms that the government has done in this area. I’m going to go through some of those things, because I think it’s worthwhile checking off on them.
For instance, we’ve had tax concessions for water, fodder and fencing. There has been the removal of the family farm from the assets test so the kids could get independent youth allowance. We fought long and hard for that and it’s been a great win. Every year we match the grower donations from the registered agricultural research organisations—$250 million a year goes into agricultural research courtesy of the Australian taxpayer as a result of those decisions. There are grants to small, smart farms—I have had quite a number of those go into my electorate. There are a whole host of grants available to the innovative farmers out there.
There are water infrastructure projects. Only last week, there were two announced in my electorate, both on the Adelaide Plains. One will go to Seven Point Pork at Port Wakefield and will capture their wastewater stream and recycle some of it back through the plant, and the other will go to lucerne-growing enterprises alongside the piggery. A little further south of that, at Two Wells, the Olive Oil Project will see an extension of the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme, which will use recycled water to grow olives. It should be the biggest olive plantation in Australia by the time it is completed—great for jobs.
There’s accelerated depreciation. I can tell you that there are a lot of machinery agents that are pretty happy in the electorate of Grey with the accelerated depreciation at the moment. But that’s not the only thing that farmers can get depreciation on at the moment. There was an article in the press only in the last few days saying, ‘If you haven’t got any silos ordered for harvest, don’t waste your time.’ It is too late to order paddock bins, because they’re all booked out. The producers are absolutely flat out, knocking up the new equipment for farmers on the back of the support that comes from the government.
There’s support for education and training. We’ve installed a number of uni hubs in my electorate where not only farmers but others can get tertiary-level education.
There’s the drought. It’s raining at the moment and it’s easy to forget what the drought is like sometimes. The Australian taxpayer injected more than $3 billion into the agricultural sector through the drought. Farm household assistance was one of the backbones, and there were concessional loans. And we have established a $5 billion Future Drought Fund, which is contributing $100 million a year into agricultural resilience to deal with future droughts.
There are free trade agreements. Just to name some of them: Japan, Korea, the US—there’s been a bit of criticism of the US; that was done back in the Howard years; you were here, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews; it’s reached maturity now, so those beef quotas have come to fruition—Indonesia, Chile and even China, where we have a few issues at the moment. But free trade agreements have given Australian farmers access to new markets. As I said, I struggle to remember a time when we’ve done better.
There’s the dog fence in South Australia—a 100-year investment. It’s 100 years old. We put $10 million in, the state government put $10 million in, and the producers put $5 million in. People thought it would never be done, but it has been done under this government.
The Pacific workers program has been a great program to get labour into Australia, and now the agricultural workers program is coming down the pipeline.
Transport routes—we’re spent over $1 billion in Grey rebuilding the highway network so that farmers and others can get their produce to market. There’s $400 million in the budget for biosecurity. We continue to support the diesel fuel rebate. I often wonder what our colleagues on the other side of the House want to do with the diesel fuel rebate.
And new mobile phones stations—over 1,200 across Australia, with 15 in Grey. We never saw a cent from the other side of politics. (Time expired)