Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (2.26 pm): In rising to speak, I declare I have an individually droughted property declaration or IDP, as noted on my register of interests. Queensland’s drought is critical and catastrophic. Farmers and their communities have been hurting for years. There is no reprieve on the horizon after a dismally dry winter and a forecast below-average wet season. As at 1 September, 66.1 per cent of the state, 33 councils, four partial council areas and 23 IDPs in another eight local government areas are drought declared.
I understand drought. I have lived and breathed it. Those in drought are disgusted with the Premier’s and state government’s blame-shift about the management and assistance of drought support by claiming that Canberra is failing Queensland farmers. Attacks on the federal government’s revolutionary $5 billion Future Drought Fund are a disgrace and show a tin ear to the needs of our regional and rural communities. They are an exercise in dissembling, spin, buck-passing and manipulation of the facts for base political purposes. They deserve to be called out. AgForce CEO, Mike Guerin, said—
Either the premier doesn’t comprehend the concept of a future fund or she is being politically mischievous at the expense of thousands of farmers across the state currently crippled by drought.
The entire industry will be furious if the state government is allowed to touch a single dollar of that investment.
For the Premier to dress up her demand as if she is acting in the interests of droughted farmers is disingenuous at best and entirely wrong. Devastating drought should be tackled by all levels of government. We need a comprehensive approach to support affected farmers and their communities, not cheap political finger-pointing. It is rich to hear the Premier and Labor lecture about drought support when, at the same time, they oversee cuts to future freight and fodder subsidies for farmers trying to keep their stock alive. It is rich that Labor has $50 million less in forward drought support funding and fails to build and deliver water infrastructure.
We need to futureproof the state from drought. The government’s opposition to dams and water infrastructure is so entrenched that they are tearing down the walls of Bundaberg’s Paradise Dam and overseeing the rapidly shrinking Rookwood Weir project near Rockhampton. Millions of litres of water are being irresponsibly poured into the ocean when towns and farmers desperately need it. It is callous and wasteful. The government claims that drought funding increases year on year. More and more farmers are forced to accept support. That does not mean that government has increased funding.
Budgeting less in the forward estimates is not an increase.
Since Labor came to government there have been no new measures or additional support for drought-affected farmers—nothing. A review into drought policy has not delivered any new measures, just future cuts. It is time to work with the federal government to support our farmers and drought-affected Queensland. It is time to stop playing petty and destructive politics and start the heavy lifting. The government should do its job.
The political game does not stop here. The Premier, the minister and the government continue to play political games with weed management. The culture of secrecy and arrogance is an embarrassment and a disgrace. In March I wrote to the chair of the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee requesting the finalisation of the parliamentary inquiry into the impacts of evasive weeds in Queensland. The inquiry which started in 2016 has been buried by Labor. On 8 April the chair committed to finalising the release of that report, saying that the committee would soon be able to organise a release date. Soon is a long time coming.
It is more than seven months later and still there is no report. I wrote again last week requesting the report’s finalisation and release.
It is sheer arrogance of the issues facing farmers and landholders to do nothing other than to leave that report to gather dust. Does Labor fear a report prepared by a Labor dominated committee might highlight that they might have to do something? This morning Minister Furner told the parliament, ‘It is a lack of intestinal fortitude to not release a report.’ Labor is trying to bury its record on weed management by burying the report. It is not surprising, as those opposite have form. The minister tried to deceive Queenslanders on his commitment to fund the fight against prickly acacia. Pest and weed management is underfunded. It is time to stop the games and put up the promised funds.