Wednesday 7 December 2016
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has refused to rule out reversing the north-south pipeline, a project that would come at significant cost to farmers.
A secret government report last week found reversing the north-south pipeline would cost $277 million, require upgraded pumps and 14km of new pipes, either under or over the Yarra River.
For the project to be economically viable, water prices in the Goulburn system would have to be consistently above $1350/ML – well above historic levels.
Ms Pulford was unable to answer questions about the report when asked in Parliament by The Nationals Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan on Tuesday.
In a written response on Wednesday, Ms Pulford would not rule out the project and said “this option remains on the table”.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Water Peter Walsh
It wasn’t enough for Daniel Andrews to waste $27 million on a desal water order we don’t need and he is now targeting farmers’ back-pocket.
The Minister couldn’t say if there was advice from her own Department on the economic viability of Labor’s north-south-north pipe dream - despite the report detailing significant impacts for farmers.
Water prices of $300/ML came close to sending some farmers out of business last year, so $1350/ML isn't only unfeasible, it's deluded.
Victorian families and farmers can’t afford to pay for any more of Daniel Andrews’ water white elephants.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford today failed to explain why the State Government’s long-promised plan for hunting in Victoria is not being released.
In question time today, The Nationals’ new Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan asked Minister Pulford to explain the five month delay in the release of the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan.
Field and Game Australia chairman Bill Patterson told October’s issue of Conservation and Hunting magazine that the government’s dragging its feet on this was a “great cause for concern”.
“Jaala Pulford is failing Victoria’s hunting community,” Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.
“The great fear amongst hunters is that Jaala Pulford is being blocked by members of her own government who are anti-hunting and who want to deny the recreational, environment and economic benefits that hunters deliver to Victoria.”
Last week, Victoria’s Game Management Authority announced that there are now 50,000 registered hunters in Victoria, so it beggars belief that the Andrews Government won’t recognise and support such a large recreation sector which contributes so much in Victoria.
“The resignation of respected GMA chair Roger Hallam five months ago has been a further blow to hunters and the long delay in filling this role is further cause for concern,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Liberal Nationals are strong supporters of Victoria’s hunters and we understand the importance that hunting plays in pest management and regional tourism opportunities.”
Mr O’Sullivan said hunting contributes around $450 million to Victoria’s economy each year, and a lot of that is spent in country areas.
“Jaala Pulford needs to work harder to influence her city-centric leftie colleagues and get the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan out without delay,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Wild dog numbers are out of control because the Andrews Labor Government spent two years playing politics with an effective program set up by the former Liberal-Nationals government.
Jaala Pulford was very wrong and very arrogant to ignore the advice of farmers who are dealing with the impact of devastating wild dog attacks.
It’s disgraceful that it took two years of constant lobbying from farmers, hunters and Nationals and Liberal MPs for Jaala Pulford to come to her senses.
The city-centric Labor Government has let farmers down badly and despite the Minister’s begrudging backflip, this failure won’t be forgotten by high country communities.
Help for dairy farmers struggling through the industry downturn is overdue, Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews has announced grants that he said would extend assistance to our dairy farmers but there are 4200 dairy farms in Victoria and his program will only extend to 360 applicants,” Mr Walsh said.
“The fixed infrastructure grants are also only offered on condition of a matching dollar-for-dollar contribution from farmers which is going to be tough for a lot of businesses.
“Farmers with cash flow can try their luck but farmers in the red who don’t have funds to match will miss out.
“Dairy farmers have been struggling to pay bills calling for direct State Government relief for months.
“Instead of rebates on property rates and water charges, Daniel Andrews’ has simply offered scraps off the table.
“Daniel Andrews is sitting on a huge surplus after the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne but he has a real problem spending it in Regional Victoria.”
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has refused to answer how her State Government will further support Victoria’s dairy farmers, despite her complaints that the Federal Government’s $579 million assistance package is not enough.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced a $555 million concessional loans scheme last month after Murray Goulburn and Fonterra unexpectedly slashed milk prices.
Extra Rural Financial Counselling services are available, and dairy families can also now receive the Commonwealth Government’s $1000 per fortnight Farm Household Allowance payments.
Victoria was immediately allocated $30 million for initial concessional loan demand, with further funds available to be allocated when needed.
However, Ms Pulford stalled the process to roll out the loans and instead focused on petty political games.
Today in the Legislative Council, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked what was missing from the Commonwealth package, but the Minister refused to provide an answer.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
“When put on the spot and asked what else the Andrews Labor Government planned to do to assist dairy farmers, Ms Pulford arrogantly refused to answer.”
“The $11.4 million of state and industry funds Ms Pulford has announced so far is, of course, welcome but there is more that the State Government could do.
“Farmers have requested direct financial support, like rates rebates which were last week requested by Gannawarra and Campaspe shires and water charge waivers.
“So far, Ms Pulford has ignored these calls from the very farmers she claims to represent, and instead focused on grubby political games.”
The Coalition Government announced today that it will provide support for Australian dairy farmers who have had their incomes retrospectively cut by dairy processors Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce said the Coalition will deliver immediate assistance to dairy farmers in hardship to help them manage through these difficult times and return to profitability.
“I was pleased to meet dairy farmers in Victoria last week and the Coalition wants to send a clear message that the Coalition stands shoulder to shoulder with them,” Mr Joyce said.
The key elements of the support package are:
- $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans
- $20 million to fast track the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District
- $2 million to establish a commodity milk price index
- $900,000 for an additional 9 Rural Financial Counsellors in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales
- $900,000 for Dairy Australia’s ‘Tactics for Tight Times’ programme
- Fast tracking Farm Household Allowance applications with 18 more Department of Human Services employees processing claims
- Appointment of a Department of Human Services Dairy Industry Liaison Officer
- Redirection of two Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres to dairy regions
“The Coalition will be making immediately available $55 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans for Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra suppliers this year, as well as access to $500 million in concessional loans over 2016-17 and 2017-18 years. The recovery loans will be for terms of 10 years,” Mr Joyce said.
The concessional loans will be funded by expanding the drought concessional loan scheme to include dairy-specific criteria.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition was allocating $900,000 to Rural Financial Counselling Services in dairy production areas to ensure farmers receive the farm business financial advice needed, as well as $900,000 to Dairy Australia to continue rolling out one-to-one business advisory support via the Tactics for Tight Times programme.
Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge said the Coalition is taking immediate action to ensure eligible dairy farmers have fast-tracked access to the support they need to get through the tough times.
“We’ve ramped up the number of staff processing Farm Household Allowance claims. An extra 18 people have been brought in to process claims and to work directly with farming families on their individual cases, with a special focus on people in financial hardship,” Mr Tudge said.
“Where a farmer is facing real hardship and we have received the full details, a decision can be made almost immediately. If there is any difficulty obtaining the information we need to assess a claim, Farm Household Case Officers can talk to the farmer’s accountant or financial adviser to help get the information needed.
“Our one-stop-shop Mobile Service Centres are now travelling through the hard-hit dairy areas of regional Victoria and South Australia. The Service Centres provide direct access to the full range of Government services and are staffed with people who can answer farmers’ questions. Farmers can submit claims for Farm Household Allowance and other income support at the Mobile Service Centre, or by mail, online or at any Centrelink or DHS Service Centre.”
Mr Tudge said the Coalition will appoint a dedicated Dairy Industry Liaison Officer who will work on the ground with dairy farmers and local communities to coordinate support and services.
“I encourage any farmer with questions to contact the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316, which is running on extended hours from 8am to 8pm each week day,” Mr Tudge said.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition is delivering these assistance measures now as an immediate response under the Caretaker Conventions, not waiting until after the election on 2 July.
“In a sign of our strong confidence in the future of the Australian dairy industry, a re-elected Coalition Government will commit $20 million to build the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation System in Gippsland,” Mr Joyce said.
“The Macalister project will upgrade the 1920s and 1950s era Southern-Tinamba area irrigation network delivering almost 10 gigalitres in water savings which can be put back into growing the region’s agricultural production.”
Mr Joyce said to help ensure the domestic dairy industry does not in future find itself in a situation where dairy processors unexpectedly reduce farm gate milk prices late in the season, a re-elected Coalition Government will work with the dairy industry to establish a commodity milk price index.
“The index would introduce greater transparency and market signals in domestic and global milk prices. The Coalition will consult with the industry on the design of the index that would provide dairy farmers with valuable information for use in supply negotiations with processors and to assist in following international price trends,” Mr Joyce said.
“The Coalition values the contribution our dairy farmers make to their regional communities and the nation as a whole and we are proud to support them throughout good times and bad.”
Comments from Peter Walsh, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture:
“This is a good first step for the State Government to support our dairy farmers and their families.
“The next step will be to provide relief that eases the cash flow crunch for our dairy businesses.
“Farmers have raised with me this week the possibility of municipal rates relief, waivers for water charges and easily accessed low interest finance which would help ease some of the financial pressure dairy businesses are under.
“The Liberal-Nationals Coalition stands side by side with our dairy farmers and we will support all Federal and State initiatives that offer relief from this current crisis.”
National’s candidate for Ballarat, Paul Tatchell today welcomed a visit to the Ballarat Saleyards by Senator Bridget McKenzie, a key instigator of the recent Inquiry on the red meat processing sector.
Mr. Tatchell said the purpose of Senator McKenzie’s visit to the saleyards in Ballarat (Thursday) is to talk with local operators about some of the local problems.
The Interim Report into competition in the red meat processing sector by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee was released earlier this month in Canberra.
The purpose of the inquiry was to shine a light on the red meat processing sector in response to meat processors’ boycott of the Barnawartha Saleyards on 17 February 2015.
Senator McKenzie said when nine meat processors all decided not to turn up to the Barnawartha saleyards; it was a watershed moment for producers, prompting me to initiate this Senate inquiry following an outcry from local farmers.
Mr. Tatchell said Ballarat is the biggest sheep yard in Victoria and a Cattle yard, about the same capacity as Barnawartha.
“The site for the proposed new Ballarat Saleyards is totally at odds with Nationals policy in creating economic investment in Victoria’s largest Rural City; The Ballarat saleyards has been the catalyst for economic growth in precinct, and itis inconceivable to put at risk established businesses ran by hard working country people. The saleyards is the iconic heart of Ballarat’s rural history providing a solid foundation for regional investment.
The suggested site in Miners Rest defies the synergies that promote organic growth in commercial terms, and puts unnecessary pressure on the family orientated community of Miners Rest. This is not a case of going backwards to move forwards, it’s about developing opportunities on a proven foundation.” When I came to this district 35 years ago, the saleyards stood idle waiting for the stock to come, look at the precinct now, a thriving commercial precinct with capacity for future development and jobs”
“Senator McKenzie was on the Red Meat Inquiry Committee and her visit enables concerns around this project to be highlighted,” he said.
Local saleyard advocates, the Ballarat Region Saleyards Action Group, welcomed Senator McKenzie’s visit.
Spokesperson Mick Madden said “we are extremely concerned with the manner in which the Ballarat saleyards project has been managed”.
“Ballarat Council has given away a publicly owned business that is generating $1 million in profit per annum, for a single dollar”.
“This arrangement with RIPL threatens the future of stock sales in this region. The new saleyards will be run purely for profit and with excessive fee increases which will be ultimately passed onto the consumer”.
“We are grateful that Senator McKenzie and Paul Tatchell have taken an interest in this issue” said Mr. Madden.
Senator McKenzie said the evidence provided to the committee clearly demonstrated that producer concerns about a lack of transparency and unequal bargaining power with the big meat processors were justified and that continuing to put up with such treatment was simply untenable.
“It had a huge impact on local producers, who were at the mercy of the buyers’ wishes and who saw $50 to $100 taken off every grown beast sold on the day.”
“Throughout this inquiry we heard a lot about abuse of market power. We have heard a lot about producers not wanting to come forward and give evidence because they are afraid of retribution from other players within the supply chain. Confidential submissions received by the committee have included shocking allegations of bullying and intimidation,” Senator McKenzie said.
The ACCC recently announced market study into the cattle and beef industry in Australia which will examine competition, efficiency, transparency and trading issues in the beef and cattle supply chain.
Leader of The Nationals and Coalition Shadow Minister for Water Peter Walsh has welcomed the passing of amendments to the Commonwealth Water Act.
“On behalf of Victorian irrigators who called for these amendments, I extend our thanks to Barnaby Joyce for getting this important Bill dealt with before the Federal election,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Amendment gives the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder much greater flexibility for spending the proceeds gained from water sales.
“Under the old law, if the CEWH sold water to the temporary market, it had to use the proceeds of that sale to purchase water back at a future date.
“That restrictive condition is gone now, and the CEWH will be able to make smarter use of these funds. For example, it could invest in engineering works like the systems we have in Gunbower Forest or Hattah Lakes that deliver positive environmental outcomes while using water much more efficiently.
“This alteration was a key part of the submission I made to the Senate’s Basin Plan enquiry last year. Minister Joyce committed to us that he would fix it before the election and he has delivered on the promise.
“The Water Act amendment is a good first step to ensuring better outcomes for irrigators but The Nationals will continue the fight for a fairer Basin Plan that protects our irrigators, rural industries and communities.”
The Andrews Government has again failed to properly fund the protection of Victorian riverbanks.
Before the last election, the Coalition committed to a $45 million program for fencing Crown Land river frontages.
Today Lisa Neville has re-announced $10 million already listed in the 2015/16 Budget (BP3, p56). There is no funding for riparian land care in the forward estimates.
The Budget also confirms (p5) there is still $105 million unspent in the government’s Environmental Contribution Levy (ECL) Fund.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Water Peter Walsh:
“The launch of this Action Plan was the ideal time for Daniel Andrews to make a serious funding commitment from the ECL Fund to help protect our riparian reserves.”
“Farmers will also want Daniel Andrews to guarantee that the Crown Land fencing program will remain voluntary.”