Attorney-General Robert McClelland has assured Member for Riverina Michael McCormack he will speak to Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig about the devastation to Riverina grain crops.
Mr McClelland was in Wagga Wagga today to assess the current Murrumbidgee River flood crisis and discussed the crop damage with Mr McCormack.
Heavy rain, the most recent of which fell on Thursday night, has taken its toll on Riverina crops as well as those throughout other regions in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
"Farmers, having endured more than a decade of drought, were looking forward to a bumper harvest this year and all the signs looked good until the recent torrential rain," Mr McCormack said.
"I wrote to the Agriculture Minister last week asking that he visit the region and see firsthand the damage to crops.
"I am pleased Federal funding will be provided for flood victims and ask that help also be given to farmers who need assistance after again missing out on an income from an annual crop."
Mr McCormack said Mr McClelland told him he would take up his concerns at the Government's Cabinet meeting, being held in Canberra today and tomorrow.
Mr McCormack met with NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan today about the current flood situation before inspecting river levels near Wiradjuri Bridge with the State Leader and Minister.
A report in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, headed ‘Fear for ghost towns' included the Riverina's Hillston and Leeton as centres at greatest risk if water cuts proposed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority proceeded. Members on this side of the House have been aware for a long time just how hard the cuts would hit regional Australia whilst for whatever reason, convenient or otherwise, it has only just dawned upon those opposite. Those opposite have not had to worry. There aren't any Labor electorates in the Murray-Darling Basin. But, you know, Labor members do like to eat and drink and when country communities-the farmers who produce the food to feed the nation-protest in their thousands then the government has to take action. This is why the government set up on 14 October-less than two weeks ago and on the very same day that 7,000 men, women and children rallied at Griffith-a parliamentary inquiry to ensure the socioeconomic impacts of the Basin Plan were taken into consideration. This is why the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, told parliament last Thursday that he had called for legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor about the Water Act. This is why the water minister visited Griffith on Friday to meet civic leaders, family farmers and business people to listen to what they had to say.
The inquiry, the legal advice and the minister's visit are all welcome-overdue, but very welcome. But this government took six months to get to a water policy, 18 months to establish the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and 36 months to form the view, which was bleeding obvious to everyone else, that there needs to be a proper analysis of the social and economic impact-the human cost. Speaking of bleeding, that is precisely what communities in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, which is in my Riverina electorate, are doing and will continue to do until the wrongs of this ‘guide to a draft to a plan' are made right. That is what will happen whilst the uncertainty of proposed water cutbacks -sustainable diversion limits-hangs unfairly like a guillotine blade over the heads of all those in the MlA and other basin communities.
How did Labor get this so wrong? Why did Labor move forward under a process by former water minister Penny Wong which clearly did not get the legal advice in order to correctly follow the act? The current water minister admitted yesterday that the comments made publicly by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, that the Water Act did not allow it to fully take account of socioeconomic issues, were not supported by his legal advice. Not supported by his legal advice! Now we all know and it is what many in irrigation communities have been arguing all along: that the authority can and should and must adopt a triple bottom line approach and that the act is not just environment, environment, environment.
The water minister virtually rebuked the MDBA and warned it cannot hide behind the falsehood that the Water Act forces it to put the environment over communities. The MDBA's guide suggested only 800 jobs would be lost if water cuts up to 45 per cent occurred. What a joke. What an insult to hardworking family farmers and regional communities. It will be more in the order of 8,000.
I am worried that this Labor-Greens alliance wants to turn the country back to nature, a move which will drive farmers off the land, send regional communities to the wall, ruin our balance of payments, jeopardise food security and significantly increase food prices. Environmentalism gone mad!
The water minister faced some of the key stakeholders of the MIA at Griffith and I am appreciative that he took me with him. He penned a lot of notes and listened intently to what the people of Coleambally, Griffith and Leeton had to say. I am sure he came away far better informed, but whether those new insights materialise into something positive for Australia's greatest food bowl remains to be seen. As the Griffith Mayor, Councillor Mike Neville, said, this whole water debate has been ‘misinformed and misled from the start' and what is now needed is certainty and clarity, not just in the MIA's best interests but in the national interest. Perhaps the most telling remarks made to the minister at Griffith concerned the state of mental health of some of the people whose futures and livelihoods depend on the availability of water for important productive use. As the water minister left on Friday, one of the locals said to me he hoped the government was not merely paying lip service or buying time. I hold the same hope.
Riverina recognised at Racing NSW Country Awards
Riverina regional sport continues to lead the State, according to Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
"The fact that two major horse racing awards have come to Riverina again proves the excellence of administration and quality of participation in sport by this area," Mr McCormack said.
Well-known Gundagai local racing identity, Sandy Tait, of Gobarralong, was named New South Wales Country Owner/Breeder of the year at the annual Racing NSW Country Awards for Excellence Dinner held at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Friday.
At the same gala event Murrumbidgee Turf Club received the Premier Country race Club Award.
"This award especially recognises the fine leadership of MTC President Stuart Lamont and his dedicated Board of Directors and also the diligence of Chief Executive Officer Christine Williams and her hard working staff," Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack also praised Gordon Lindley of Gundagai, who has stepped down as Racing NSW Country Chairman after four years at the helm.
"Gordon has shown tremendous leadership during his time at the top - a time which has presented many challenges to country racing," Mr McCormack said. "Gordon has always put Riverina racing to the forefront."
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health visiting Riverina
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health, Doctor Andrew Laming, will in Wagga Wagga tomorrow to discuss the Base Hospital and other important local health matters.
Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and Dr Laming will meet with key stake-holders and touring parts of Wagga Wagga Base and University of New South Wales Rural Clinic.
"This is a great opportunity for key stake-holders to inform Dr Laming of the issues and concern for our region," Mr McCormack said.
A media opportunity for members of the press is scheduled for 3pm-3.15pm on the grassed area in front of the main building of Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.
Attached picture: Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health, Doctor Andrew Laming
For further information please contact Jessica Glynn on 02 6921 4600.
Beef cattle producer Walter Paton, at 85 years of age, has lived all of his life at Tooma, in the Tumbarumba Shire, in the Riverina electorate. In all of those years he has never experienced a flood quite as devastating as the one that swept through the district on Friday, 15 October. Brought about by continual, steady rain it was far worse than any previous flood in Walter's lifetime, with far more disastrous effects than those of 1934, 1956 or 1974. Things were not helped by the breaching of the Mannus Dam and the resultant wall of water which gushed through the valley, taking with it hundreds of huge basket willow logs and branches which were, inexplicably, left lying on the ground. These trees, up to 30-metres long, had been felled, as I understand it, by Catchment Management Authority contractors in the past 12 months or so, and, as is the practice these days, left where they fell. This is said to enhance the natural environment and to enable frogs to spawn. But these tree limbs surged down the valley and smashed into the Tooma bridges, taking out the abutments and leaving communities isolated and the local council counting the cost. This was just one of many districts to be hit hard by this flood event.
I wrote seeking funding assistance to the federal government last week, and have written again to the appropriate minister today, calling for a one-off payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child to help affected families. The floods in the Riverina and Farrer electorates have taken their toll, particularly at Adelong, Culcairn, Lockhart, Tarcutta, The Rock, Uranquinty and Wagga Wagga, and I believe the government should seriously consider providing payments similar to those given after the 2009 Ingham and Coffs Harbour floods
Costs of living are increasing and Australians are worried. Today's official consumer price index figures on the cost of living must surely send a signal to the government to stop its reckless spending and ease the financial pressure on Australian families. Labor's refusal to reduce spending is putting upward pressure on inflation. The September quarter CPI figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that inflation rose by 0.7 per cent in the quarter, lifting the annual rate to 2.8 per cent. Over the past year the cost of essentials has risen: electricity by 12.4 per cent; water and sewerage 12.8 per cent; gas 9.8 per cent, child care 7.2 per cent; hospital and medical services 6.9 per cent and education 5.8 per cent. Increases in essential goods and services have applied considerable tension on already stretched household budgets.
The recent minutes of the October meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia show an interest rate hike is now seemingly inevitable, revealing that the RBA ‘could not wait indefinitely' due to increased pressure on inflation. Why is the government continuing to spend at a recession-like rate and accumulate a $41 billion budget deficit at a time when the economy is running at near full capacity? Labor must immediately stop its spending largesse to relieve some of the upward pressure on interest rates.
Increasing interest rates will cause more pain for all Australians who are facing higher costs as a consequence of the Gillard government's failure to deliver on its promise to reduce the cost of living for working families. Families are desperately worried about electricity prices, which have shot up 35 per cent since the end of 2007-35 per cent in just three years. In the same period, gas prices have risen by 24 per cent, water prices by 29 per cent and rents by 15 per cent. There is constant concern that mortgage repayments could be pressured by banks lifting their rates above and beyond the Reserve Bank of Australia's cash-rate increases.
Alarming too is the continual upward trend of the price of food, placing undue and excessive strain on the family budget. The weekly grocery bill just gets higher and higher, and it is not as if shoppers are placing any more items in their trolleys. In fact, the opposite is the case as families struggle to make ends meet. It is certainly not as if the poor old farmer is getting a higher price for produce. The price at the farm gate does not change. If anything, farming is less and less profitable. The difference in prices from paddock to plate is unreasonable, unfair and unAustralian. The farmer is being ripped off, likewise the customer at the checkout. This fiscally irresponsible Labor government knows not how or when to rein in its reckless and wasteful spending. The Rudd-Gillard governments have continued to borrow at $100 million a day, even after the worst of the global financial crisis is behind us. This is feeding into inflation.
People respect the need for taxes but expect value for money. They expect government to ease cost-of-living pressures, not burden them with more. Any small business owner or those who do a simple household budget know a government cannot go on borrowing $100 million per day. Those borrowings have to come from somewhere. Most of them come from offshore, meaning less available money for Australian businesses to access: businesses needing to invest in research and development, businesses investing in capital equipment and technology, businesses investing in their own people, products and futures-our people, products and futures. What we end up with is our federal government competing for finance in the capital market against Australian businesses, which then have to pay more to finance their growth and futures, in turn pushing up prices for goods and services and adding to inflationary pressures.
It cannot continue. This government has failed to take decisive action to ease the rising cost of living, and middle Australia is hurting as a result. Especially hurting is regional Australia. The government stands condemned for its diabolical mismanagement of the water issue. This has created so much uncertainty in rural areas which make up the food bowl of the nation. The fact that this government took six months to get to a water policy, 18 months to set up the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and 36 months to determine that there needs to be a proper analysis of the social and economic impact-the human cost-of water reform is, quite frankly, beyond belief.
It is little comfort now to the thousands of people in basin communities that a parliamentary inquiry has been established to look into the water issue and that the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, has received legal advice that the socioeconomic effects of the Water Act should and must come into play in any deliberations of the MDBA. It is little comfort because some of the damage to the confidence in these basin communities has already been done. People already troubled by cost-of-living increases have been hit with the added woe of whether their farm or business has a future if water cuts of a proposed 45 per cent are introduced. It is a responsibility, an obligation, of this government to now restore that confidence. The government has a duty to move within what would be considered a reasonable time frame-and country people are reasonable and patient-to allay the widespread and growing fears about the future of regional Australia; about how regional, and indeed all, Australians will meet costs of living and about how they will be able to balance household budgets.
Australian families will quite correctly lay the blame for interest rate rises fairly and squarely with the Gillard government. They will also sheet home to the Gillard government the blame for our refusal to pay or delay repaying the national debt. As far as longer term challenges and, hopefully, opportunities are concerned, a necessary requirement is to lift productivity and the speed limits on growth. Contrary to what the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, said in question time this afternoon, productivity growth is slipping, and that should be of considerable concern to all of us in this place.
We need to better promote and increase labour force participation. Small business, the engine room of the Australian economy, has to be helped, not hindered. On this side of the House we see the need for more prudent spending-restraint, responsibility and respect for taxpayers, working families and all Australians. An achievable and attainable benchmark is spending as a proportion of gross domestic product to be no higher than in the last year of the coalition government-23 per cent. Of course, national debt will not in any way be assisted by a Labor government which is rolling out a $43 billion National Broadband Network without a proper cost-benefit analysis, with no business case and with no guarantee of a take-up rate which would go anywhere near close to justifying such a gross misuse of Commonwealth money, the people's money.
Now this same incompetent, spend-happy government wants to inflict a carbon tax on all of us, which will be such a roadblock to future growth and prosperity and which will especially hurt regional areas. It is a slippery slope on which this government is taking us. The suggestion that electricity bills will reach up to $10,000 a year for families in five years if a carbon tax is introduced should send a shiver up the spine of every Aussie battler. As a nation we seem so intent on rushing down the path of environmentalism for the sake of environmentalism that we are forgetting Mr and Mrs Average, pensioners, businesspeople and farmers, who are trying to keep pace with ever-increasing costs of living brought about by this Labor government.
This Labor government has wasted so much money on Building the Education Revolution, the failed Home Insulation Program, Fuelwatch, GroceryWatch-I could go on. All the while, hospitals across Australia are in a state of disrepair, regional fuel prices are extraordinarily high, the price of groceries everywhere is soaring-again I could go on. It is time for Labor to rein in the spending, stop the waste and repay the spiralling debt before it is too late.
Unlike some of the major parties, The Nationals have a strong tradition of members putting their electorate before their party. During her time as our local member Kay Hull continually put the Riverina first, crossing the floor to vote against the sale of Telstra, opposing the sale of Snowy Hydro, lobbying for the Coolac bypass and duplication of the Hume Highway and fighting for the extension of Exceptional Circumstances to drought affected growers and businesses in the region.
Michael will continue Kay's commitment to the Riverina, and will always put the interests of this region first.
The next member for Riverina will need to take a stand on such matters as the federal takeover of the Murray-Darling basin and the restoration of an orderly marketing arrangement to protect our small wheat growers. These issues go to the very heart of our way of life and could affect the viability of our towns and smaller communities. The Riverina needs a representative who will put local communities before big business and environmental concerns.
The Nationals candidate for Riverina, Michael McCormack, has said that as he has travelled across the electorate he has been overwhelmed by the amount of seniors who feel they have been forgotten or neglected by their Government.
"It really is appaulling to hear this from those who have contributed so much to our country.
"I have welcomed the Coalition's Policy to Support Seniors and in particular the commitment to create a Minister for Ageing and Seniors. This will ensure that Australians over the age of 50 have a Minister dedicated to making sure their voices are heard in Canberra.
"The Nationals Recognise that when Australians aged over 50 become unemployed, they will likely remain so twice as long as younger Australians. Similarly we recognise that the impact of long term unemployment is more severe for older workers, so I have welcomed the Coalition's commitment to a Seniors' Employment Incentive Payment which will assist seniors who are out of the workforce to find a job.
"Further measures which will benefit seniors include the comittment to abolish the Superannuation Guarantee Age Limit, which will encourage and allow those who want to continue working past retirement age to do so.
"Sadly, personal safety has become an issue for many seniors so I welcome the opportunity for local Councils to apply for $100,000 per annum to improve the safety of seniors in their homes and communities," Mr McCormack said.
The Nationals Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Food Security, Fisheries and Forestry the Hon. John Cobb has today announced the Coalition's plan to secure the nations food security.
"The Nationals recognise that food and water security are already becoming the defining issues of the 21st century, and food producers in the Riverina are coming under enormous pressure to increase productivity while using fewer natural resources," Mr McCormack said.
"Here in the Riverina, our farmers are amongst the worlds leaders in thinking strategically about food production and have for many years led the way in developing efficient and sustainable food production systems.
"Many of the world's traditional food and fibre producing areas face issues such as urban spread, desertification and declining water resources, resulting in fewer areas available for food and fibre production.
"This is why the Riverina is so vitally important to our food security. I cannot stress this enough!
Under the plan announced by The Nationals Shadow Minister John Cobb, the Coalition will boost Australian agriculture.
The plan includes Increased Research and Development for primary production funding of $150million over three years; A $5 million four-year scientist/researchers pilot programme offering grants of up to $50,000 for specialised research, mentoring or further study; Grants totalling $50 million over four years for farmers undertaking water-saving activities for stock use; $20 million over four years towards a large scale Feral Animal Control Programme; A Saltbush Planting Programme to provide up to $100,000 matched dollar for dollar per annum per farm enterprise and up to $250,000 per established nursery per annum; $8 million for a "third party" auditable map of Australia's Agricultural Production carbon footprint; $2 million for a "Green Tape" audit of all environmental legislation and regulations; $15 million for a Bio-security Flying Squad to provide urgent additional resources when a bio-security risk is identified.
"Border security will be given rightful recognition as opposed to the current situation under Labor with an additional $108.1 million allocated to Bio-security and Customs agencies, which will give support to our local industries including apple growers," Mr McCormack said.