Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (4.58 pm): I move—
That the House:
1. acknowledges the importance of Queensland primary producers and their world-class food and fibre for Queenslanders, Australians and our trading partners;
2. recognises the thousands of jobs and livelihoods reliant on this dynamic and vibrant industry;
3. notes the ongoing desperate struggle of more than two-thirds of Queensland against the devastating drought;
4. calls on the Palaszczuk Labor government to put away its ‘austerity anvil’ that has been mercilessly dropped on the hardworking staff of the department of agriculture and the many Queenslanders who rely on their services; and
5. calls on the Palaszczuk Labor government to reverse their harmful cuts.
Natural disasters such as flood and drought are beyond the control of government. However, the
factors the government controls show its incompetence, contempt and absolute disdain for and
ignorance about agriculture’s importance to Queensland’s economy. This year the Premier and the
agriculture minister waxed lyrical about agriculture—talk, talk and more talk. Saying that you are focused and passionate means nothing when you do not deliver. The talk was cynical political spin to use as a prop or sound bite for photo and media opportunities. Actions do not back the rhetoric. The government’s only action is to cut funding and staff in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Queensland’s agriculture is worth $18 billion. It employs more than 300,000 people throughout
the supply chain and 60,000 people directly. It operates on 84 per cent of the state, or 144 million hectares. It makes up 15 per cent of Queensland’s total exports. On any measure it is one of our most fundamental and important economic pillars.
Despite eye-watering borrowings, record debt and record spending, DAF is going backwards—
backwards in staff and in funding. There is a $44 million cut to DAF’s budget in 2020-21 compared to actual expenditure in 2019-20. There is nothing for the department—no expansion in services. There are nine fewer staff budgeted for in 2020-21 than were employed in 2019-20, a drop from 2,124 to
2,115. That is nine fewer staff when the government’s only solution to create jobs is a Public Service led recovery. While other city-centric departments increase staff, DAF is cutting. Since 2015 there are 30,000 more Brisbane bureaucrats and yet the department responsible for rural and regional industries is shrinking.
Today the minister said that agriculture is designated an essential service. That is poor treatment for an essential service. The minister is presiding over a gradual weakening and emasculation of his own department. DAF’s budget is cut during a long-term, ongoing drought. On 30 June, 67.4 per cent of Queensland was drought declared. Parts of Western Queensland are entering their eighth year of
consecutive drought. Labor’s unfair vegetation management laws make it harder for Western
Queensland farmers to push mulga to feed livestock. Labor has no drought policy. In 2018 the
government promised to reform drought support programs and conduct a review. It broke the promise to reform drought support. Labor’s only drought plan was to cut freight and fodder subsidies. Reforms were deferred until after the election.
Labor’s record on biosecurity is abysmal. The minister betrayed farmers in the north-west by
withholding $5 million he promised to tackle prickly acacia. Biosecurity’s key industry advisory group did not meet for almost two years. No meetings were held the entire time Labor conducted its secret review of the Biosecurity Act and regulations.
The minister’s budget press release yesterday was extremely disappointing—an embarrassment.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation called DAF’s budget ‘underwhelming’ and ‘a missed opportunity to address some critical competitiveness and productivity issues, and exciting growth opportunities for the sector, which would benefit all Queenslanders’.
The government has dropped an austerity anvil on hardworking DAF staff and the sector.
Agriculture faces cuts to front counter services and closed DAF offices. Extension services have all but disappeared. Research and development are ignored. The government has an appalling record of
relentlessly attacking agriculture. Labor has attacked and undermined through unfair vegetation laws, blocked new dams, underfunding, mismanaged biosecurity and closed agricultural education colleges.
Labor used a politically motivated report, funded by a Labor donor, to close the Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges. The minister supported the unilateral closure of licensed armourers and dealers and he did not know farmers use firearms as tools of trade. The minister supported the government shutting down debate on the invasive weeds report. Farmers are expected to do the work of government departments which allow invasive weeds to get out of control. Farmers have to deal with wild dogs killing livestock while the government does very little.
Labor demonises farmers. It ties them up in green tape to stop them from managing their farms and creating jobs. Labor was slow to protect farmers from animal extremists who terrorise them through illegal trespassing. QFF said that the agricultural sector is the only one that can deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity for relatively low risk. Without more targeted and deliberate action from government, agriculture will not fully capitalise on the exciting opportunities that are unquestionably available.