Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:07): Like the member for Barker, I am somewhat bemused about the subject matter that has been brought before us in this MPI. Last week we heard a couple of outbursts from the member for Franklin about mouse plagues and, again, she has brought mouse plagues into this MPI today.
I thought I’d have a look at where Franklin is on the map and of course it’s the southernmost electorate in Australia. I don’t know much about its primary production or its investment profile but I doubt that mouse plagues are actually a regular occurrence in that part of the world. But they are where I come from, out of the grain belt on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. They’re a subsequent part of farming. They’re quite predictable in many ways; we know when they’re coming and good farmers prepare for them. But it’s interesting; when I was having a bit of a look during question time at some issues I might speak on I saw a speech that the member for Grey delivered on mouse plagues in 2011—that was me, by the way! At that time I was asking the APVMA to accelerate the local mixing process for the new registered chemical for the control of mice in broadacre, zinc phosphide. It was only able to be mixed in two places in Australia and we needed local mixing, otherwise farmers would be transporting grain there and then transporting poison back. It was all too expensive and hard to do. We got a breakthrough, and I actually have a mixing station in my local town now. There’s a chemical supply unit doing exactly that. That came in the tracks of deregistering the use of strychnine for mouse control, which we had used back in the nineties.
Here I’ll share my own experience with mouse plagues, and I’ve lived through a few of them. As a kid, they seemed like a bit of fun. They’re not much fun when you’re trying to protect your house, though; I accept that. I’ve shared all those the experiences that have been raised before. I’ve shared my bed with mice. I’ve had to wipe down my cupboards with disinfectant in the morning so we could get the kids’ lunches ready for school. In fact, they chewed through the cornice in my ceiling. They used to peep their heads out at night while we were having dinner, and then their urine dribbled all down the walls of where we lived. That’s what it’s like living with mice. Before my wife went to school to teach each day, I used to clean up the front and back of the house. I would front-end load up bucketfuls of carcasses of mice that had perished because we’d used strychnine during the night. It was a darn good poison, and I still maintain it should never have been deregistered for use in the case of mouse plagues.
But the point is that if you want to manage a mouse plague it’s all about local management. The best people to manage mouse plagues are farmers—the people who live in the towns. But you need to take early action and you need to have the right chemicals supplied to you. When I spoke on this in 2011, I was actually speaking about something that a national government could do in response to a mouse plague.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr RAMSEY: We’re hearing calls for action. How about you detail what you think? Why doesn’t the member for Franklin actually talk about what she thinks would be a constructive thing for a federal government to do in the face of a mouse plague? I tell you what: you can’t beat it with dollar bills. You can’t beat it by sending the Army out there. There are no simple solutions to this. The solution to a mouse plague is local management, and it is the people on the ground who will front up and defeat them.
On the broader issue of us not regarding farmers and regional Australia, in recent years we’ve doubled the FMDs—a great drought management tool for farmers. We have the immediate tax write-off now on capital goods. Before that, we had immediate tax write-off on water, fodder and fencing. We have farm household support. Interestingly enough, if those farmers are affected badly enough by a mouse plague, they will qualify for farm household support. There is $5 billion in the Future Drought Fund. We’ve invested in new drought hubs. In my own electorate in SA, we headed out of Roseworthy. I have Minnipa, Port Augusta and Orroroo that will all have hubs. We have the on-farm emergency water grants and regional connectivity. We’ve put in another $84 million in the budget.
I might just touch on mobile phones. There was never a mobile phone tower policy under the Labor government—or their policy was: we don’t have one. In my electorate, 30 towers have been built, another 18 are on the way, and there are two rounds of funding to come. There was another $250 million in the budget for the BBRF, one of the great investors in regional areas. I’ve run out of time. But for anyone to allege that this side of the parliament is not on the side of regional Australia— (Time expired)