SPEECH: Regional Investment Corporation Bill 2017

Aug 17, 2017

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (19:27): I’m proud to rise and talk about the Regional Investment Corporation Bill 2017 and the challenge that farmers face and their abandonment by the current government. There is a giant elephant in the room whenever we talk about the agricultural industry, and that’s climate change. Climate change is the single greatest challenge to the prosperity of farmers. Quite frankly, if you don’t have farmland that can produce things, we’re not going to have many farmers in this country. The Garnaut review in 2008 found that unchecked climate change will destroy 98 per cent of the farming land in the Murray-Darling Basin. Whenever I talk to farmers, they’re already recognising the impact of climate change. You have only to look in the Hunter Valley, where I go to talk to the winemakers. Their harvests are coming early, their growing seasons for grapes are getting shorter, and they are having to develop very different strategies to manage the impact of climate change on the winemaking industry—an incredibly important industry to Australia.

I find it farcical that this government claims to be the best friend of farmers—and that’s what the second reading amendment moved by the member for Hunter goes to—when it doesn’t talk about the single greatest challenge facing farmers in any of its policies, and that’s climate change. You only have to look at its complete abandonment of its emissions reduction fund, supposedly the centrepiece of its efforts to combat climate change: a policy that the current Prime Minister—and I say ‘current’ intentionally—said is a fig leaf for doing nothing and is fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. Well, it’s been so fiscally reckless that the government has stopped funding it. There was no additional funding for it in this year’s budget. The money will run out quite soon, and experts have demonstrated that they are leaving massive gaps in emissions reductions if we are to meet our 2030 targets—even the government’s own inadequate 2030 targets.

So, all we’ve got from those on the other side are lies and obfuscation on this very important issue. They’ve got a so-called review into the emissions reduction fund, but we’ve seen nothing out of it. All we’ve seen is a party riven by divisions, where the minister for energy gets overruled by the member for Hughes and the member for Warringah on a regular basis, and where the minister got rolled on an emissions intensity scheme within 12 hours of floating the possibility. I’ve got zero confidence that this government will be able to combat climate change, which is singlehandedly the greatest issue facing farmers in this country. That’s what we should be debating in this bill and in this chamber.

Debate interrupted.

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