Dec 01, 2016

The shadow agriculture minister and member for Hunter has asked me to explain how I am going to explain this to my Riverina farmers. Batlow cherry and apple packer, Greg Mouat, needs eight backpackers to knock on his door within a fortnight or else his cherries will pass their prime. 'We'd be completely stuffed without backpackers', Mr Mouat said. He is from Batlow. I used to represent Batlow, from 2010 until the electoral boundaries were changed this year. He is a very, very good man. He said: 'It's up in the air. I don't know if they're going to arrive or not given it's taken so long to make this decision.' Of course he is right. I am glad that it has been resolved in a 'sensible and fair way', as the National Farmers' Federation has pointed out. 'You have to remember, we're dealing with a perishable product which doesn't stop ripening if it's not picked,' Mr Mouat said. 'We'll start cherries in the next fortnight and then we'll move into hand thinning apples for a number of weeks, then we'll pick apples in mid to late February through to the end of April.' Mr Mouat 'could swallow' a 15 per cent tax on backpackers. That is what he said. But he labelled the government's original 32½ per cent as 'ridiculous'. Mind you, that was the member for Lilley's originally, the 32½ per cent. Mr Mouat said Labor's current 10½ per cent alternative was playing politics—merely playing politics.                

What we have seen today is a timely breakthrough, because we are on the very last day of parliament sitting for 2016. We could not let the tax go through at 32½ per cent. We know that. It would have done so much damage to the Riverina, to the central west and, indeed, to the Australian economy. Regional small businesses need a mobile labour force who can pick fruit, who can process meat and who can pull beers in pubs at the drop of a hat—absolutely. Backpackers will still come, apples will still be picked at Batlow, grapes will still be picked at Griffith, and pubs right throughout the Riverina and right throughout regional Australia will be staffed.                

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Nov 28, 2016

I hope the member for Bendigo is not planning on leaving the chamber. When she first entered parliament in 2013, I reached over the great divide, I reached over to the other side of the chamber, to bring her into a conversation about the origin of the Chiko Roll. Colin Bettles from Farm Weekly was wanting to do a story as a promotion out the front of the chamber to talk up this wonderful product. I am glad the member for Calare is not in the chamber, because he would be claiming it. The fact is, in talking about the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Country of Origin) Bill 2016, we can all talk about the Chiko Roll, because it is currently manufactured by Simplot in Bathurst in the Calare electorate. It has been since Simplot took ownership of the Chiko Roll brand in 1995. As the member for Bendigo quite correctly pointed out just a moment ago, it first saw the light of day at the Wagga Wagga agricultural show in 1951. I agree with her, the McEncroe's originally came up with the idea—they invented it—in Bendigo. However, as I have always said, it is not where you were thought of, it is not where you end up, it is where you were born that makes such a difference. It saw the first light of day in Wagga Wagga.                

The Chiko Roll's filling, even though the name might suggest it is chicken—and I am sure you have enjoyed a Chiko Roll from time to time, Deputy Speaker Kelly—is primarily cabbage and barley, as well as carrots, green beans, beef, beef tallow, wheat cereal, celery and, indeed, onion. This legislation is important for all of those items because they all need proper labelling. They are all items which need truth in labelling, irrespective of where we might think that the Chiko Roll was invented. I know Wagga Wagga has a claim, I know Bathurst has a claim and I appreciate that Bendigo has a claim. When the member for Bendigo came to that little bit of social media interaction out the front of Parliament House, I just wish that she had handed me a Chiko Roll that was cooked. She handed me a frozen one, and I took a great bite out of it and nearly broke my teeth.                

Getting on to the important matters before the House today, this bill has a simple proposition: consumers should have the best possible information to rely on when they go to the supermarket to shop. In rising to speak on this very important bill, I do so noting that this bill presents something of an article of faith for country people, and especially for the Nationals. I am so glad that the member for Mallee and the member for Hinkler, the assistant minister, are beside me to support the passage of this important legislation through the House. For decades, the idea that consumers should be able to have an easy-to-use reference of whether the produce on supermarket shelves is Australian has dominated conferences, branch meetings and, indeed, discussions of the Nationals right across the country. So, too, the more than 5,000 farmers, many of whom are small businesses—in fact, I would say almost all of whom are small businesses—whom I represent in this place, have made the case that Australian producers want Australian consumers to buy Australian food and fibre. It almost goes without saying. This is exactly what this bill proposes and delivers upon. I am so glad that the minister, Mr Hunt, is here, because he also knows just how important this legislation is.                

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Nov 23, 2016

Thanks to the member for Mayo for her questions. They are important ones. I will just give a bit of an outline of the program to attempt to relieve some of her fears and concerns, which I would say are unfounded. I can assure the member for Mayo it is a good program. It has been well thought through, with consultation with key stakeholders and business groups, and in particular it provides jobs and hopes and opportunities for young Australians. The Jobs Youth PaTH improves upon and complements existing supporting programs by providing real world solutions to the real world employment challenges facing young people—young people in my electorate of Riverina, young people in the honourable member's electorate of Mayo. I know her electorate well.                 

The employability skills training will be intensively delivered in two blocks of three weeks, and the close engagement with employers in the training's design means that it will deliver real results. A wide range of organisations have already been consulted, as I have just discussed, on the training and their feedback will inform its implementation. The internship placement is different from existing work experience activities because it delivers a formal opportunity for young people to understand the work environment and at the same time it gives employers an opportunity to ensure the job seeker is a good fit for their business. Other key differences include: under the internship job seekers will receive a $200 per fortnight supplement on top of their income support payment, so that is a bonus, and employers will receive an up-front payment of $1,000 to host an intern, so that is good for them too. So it is a win-win situation. Previous wage subsidies for youth under 30 provided employers with up to $6,500, GST inclusive, over 12 months if they hired an eligible job seeker. The new youth bonus wage subsidy provides up to $10,000 over six months. In addition, all wage subsidies for job seekers aged 25 to 29 years—parents, Indigenous, mature age and the long-term unemployed—will be further enhanced, including payment over six months.                

The member for Mayo asked about sexual harassment, about bullying in the workplace and about safety in the workplace. I can assure her that all those fit under this legislation. Of course no government would put in a plan that was going to give bullies in the workplace the opportunity to perpetrate their crimes—and they are crimes—against young people. There has been some suggestion that participants are going to be paid only $4 an hour. The Australian Council of Trade Unions have suggested that. The claim that the scheme will see young Australians paid so little per hour is a blatant lie, and the ACTU really should issue—                

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Nov 09, 2016

Mr McCORMACK                    (RiverinaMinister for Small Business) (15:23):  We heard from the member for Hunter, 'Here a dam, there a dam, everywhere a dam-dam.' I heard that during the election campaign, too, and I heard it for six long, sorry years, when Labor was in government: 'Here a damn, there a damn, everywhere a damn-damn.' But it was a different spelling, Member for Hunter. It had an 'n' on the end of it, because people were damning the Labor government for its lack of policy, its lack of a plan, its lack of vision. And what did we hear from the member for Hunter over 10 long, sorry minutes? We heard no plan, no vision, no alternative views for regional Australia—so typical of the member for Hunter, so negative. He is obsessed with the member for New England, the Deputy Prime Minister; that is all we ever hear about. But he does not have his own plan. He does not have his own policies.              

But we do have policies; we do have plans. I am glad that I am going to be followed by—and the member for Hunter acknowledged him—the member for Hinkler, a great member, a great regional Australian getting on with the job of making sure that his Queensland electorate is front and centre of everything that he does and that we do as a coalition government. He will be followed by the member for Grey, the member for Mallee and the member for O'Connor. I was in his electorate the other day. Kalgoorlie is booming, thanks to the great work that the member for O'Connor is doing and will continue to do—nothing that the member for Hunter ever espoused or came up with in his 79 days as the minister for agriculture. What a memorable 79 days they were—not!               

I heard somebody earlier today describe Labor, on their regional Australia policies, as 'inner urban spivs'. I think that was you, Mr Deputy Speaker Coulton! It is not a bad description. It is just extraordinary that the Labor Party would come into this place and lecture the government about its so-called failing of rural and regional communities. It is extraordinary that the very people who imposed the live cattle export ban, who traded votes with the Greens in Balmain before they worried about Brewarrina, would come in here and lecture this government about decisions and delivery. Those opposite are all about the bluff. They are all about the bluff.               

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Oct 19, 2016

It is great to be part of the Turnbull-Joyce-Liberal-Nationals government—and I hear them applauding. They know how proud I am to be part of the Liberal-Nationals-Turnbull-Joyce government. They do know that. And they are cheering. They should be cheering, because we are getting on with the job of boosting growth and boosting investment.               

The shadow Treasurer quoted from a speech—a budget speech no less—of a Treasurer from this side of the House. I would like to quote from a Treasurer from the then government benches delivered on 8 May 2012, when the member for Lilley was Treasurer. He started his budget speech on that night, and this is what he said.              

The four years of surpluses I announce tonight are a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy, resilience of our people, and success of our policies.              

How did that go? How did that work for the member for Lilley? We all know that Labor would not know a surplus if they fell over one. We all know they have not delivered a surplus for decades. We all know that; it is an absolute fact. The shadow Treasurer opposite knows that. Goodness, gracious—if ever he gets hold of the Treasury benches again, he will continue to produce deficit and debt further than the eye can see.               

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May 04, 2016

It is a great morning in Canberra and it is certainly a great morning in the Riverina following last night's federal budget. The Riverina's key role in the plan for inland rail and Roads to Recovery funding has featured highly, prominently, in last night's federal budget. The budget is a plan to back hardworking people and small businesses right throughout the Riverina and the Central West regions of New South Wales wanting to make most of Australia's natural advantages in the future. The Riverina and Central West's rich agricultural industries are set to benefit enormously from the government's recently negotiated trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea. Part of delivering the jobs and growth of these new markets and opportunities is ensuring that we can get that product to market as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The Australian Rail Track Corporation plan for a Brisbane to Melbourne freight route has the Riverina and Central West as its most critical artery in New South Wales. Last night's budget delivers on the key role our region will play in getting high-quality, local produce to market by investing an additional $593.7 million to acquire land and for preconstruction activities. Now, that commits the government and that commits the nation to this vital rail corridor, to this vital transport link.              

Whilst the plan for inland rail delivers a wholesale freight route along the eastern seaboard, last night's budget also helps deliver the critical final mile, which is very vital, within regional communities with timely boosts to the nation's road budget. I know how happy local governments were when we increased the Roads to Recovery funding. Those black spot areas are fixed up under the coalition government's commitment to roads funding, commitment to that last vital mile. We have invested an additional $400 million nationwide, and the Riverina and Central West will benefit from that, in the successful Roads to Recovery program to ensure that trucks and other industry can load, cart and freight locally. Roads to Recovery empowers local councils to make decisions on behalf of local people where they know, because they are best placed to do it, where these roads are required and where these upgrades are needed.              

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Apr 18, 2016

I just listened closely to the member for Bendigo for 10 minutes, and I would advise her that she should start sticking up for her electorate. She should start sticking up for the family-operated mum-and-dad truck drivers in her electorate. I tell you what, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think the people of Bendigo would have been listening; they will judge her harshly at the next election.  

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Mar 16, 2016

It is always good to follow the member for Hinkler, the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister. I listened closely to his contribution. I tell you what, it was a lot better than the member for Hunter's effort earlier in this debate. I heard the member for Hinkler say quite clearly that, for every dollar of research and development levy money spent, $13 goes back to the farmer and $30 goes back to the wider community—and he is so right. R&D is so important, and that is why it is crucial that the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Amendment Bill 2016 be passed by this parliament. This bill amends the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 to allow for the distribution of levy payer information to rural research and development corporations, RDCs, for the development of levy payer registers.

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Feb 29, 2016

It was interesting to hear from the member for Blaxland who gets a bit touchy on these sorts of subjects when there is nobody in the chamber. I just do not know why he does not ask questions—he certainly did not ask too many questions of Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Wentworth, when he was the communications minister—that is, Malcolm, not Jason; let's hope that does not happen too soon. 

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Feb 29, 2016

It is my pleasure to sum up on the Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016. In doing so, I thank those who have contributed to this debate—in particular, the member for Hughes. He is always on the positive side of business and talking up the government's agenda, innovation and the fact that we are talking about jobs and prosperity going forward. He need not be alarmed, or even surprised, about the member for Rankin objecting to this legislation. On 10 February, when the member for Goldstein announced his retirement, the member for Rankin criticised him—or did not pay him due respect—for the trade deals he had negotiated.

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