Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (12:23): by leave?I think it is extremely important as we discuss this report this morning that we note we have the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in the chamber here with us, because I would like to support the comments by the chair on our committee’s investigations of this report. I would also like to thank the secretariat, who are with us today in the chamber as well, for their work on this.
All members of the committee, from all sides of parliament, were unanimous in the recommendations they put forward. I would like to read the two recommendations which I think are incredibly relevant to Australian farming today. Recommendation 2 states:
Given that regions across Australia are once again experiencing drought conditions, the Committee calls on the Australian Government, States and Territories to finalise the Farm Finance Package so that it can be implemented by 1 July 2013.
Recommendation 3 states:
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Council of Australian Governments ‘ Standing Committee on Primary Industries, ensures that the complete new package of drought reform measures is agreed and implemented by the stated target date of 1 July 2014.
There are conditions across the country at the moment which are placing huge stresses on our farmers, whether they be in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria?both the northern parts of Victoria and my electorate in the south-west part of Victoria.
We need the federal government and the states to work cooperatively to get the farm finance package concluded by 1 July 2013. We also have to ensure that the further reform of how drought assistance is provided to our farmers is finalised by 1 July 2014. I call on the federal government and the states and territories to please understand the need, in particular, to give assistance to our farmers immediately. There is a real need out there in our communities, and I call on the federal, state and territory governments to sit down and get the farm financing package concluded. I understand that the interest rate subsidy has been decided at 4 per cent. We need to get the rest of the details agreed, and we need to get help to these farmers who are doing it very, very tough at the moment.