Question Time – Canegrowers

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mr PITT: My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, and I remind the minister that Hinkler cane farmers have told me that, due to high energy prices, they are on the brink of collapse. What is the government doing to address the high cost of irrigation in Hinkler and elsewhere?

Mr JOYCE (New England—Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:18): I thank the member for Hinkler. We were up in the member for Hinkler’s area not that long ago and had to deal with cane farmers. One of them is spending $135,000 a quarter—over $540,000 a year—on power. One of the major reasons that they are spending that sort of money is because of an issue that is being debated over in the other place at this moment, which is, of course, the carbon tax. It is just like how the member for Blair keeps his people poor. They are trying to keep them poor up in Central Queensland as well. What we are trying to do, obviously, is remove the carbon tax and, by removing the carbon tax, start letting more money go back through the farm gate—back to those families, back to those mums and dads—and put dignity back in these farmers’ lives.

The cane industry is a very important industry. It is one of the major industries in Queensland. Seventy per cent of Australia’s sugar canegrowers rely on irrigation to produce a crop, and so much of the time irrigation relies on power. That is the only way you can do it. But what we have seen here—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Moreton.

Mr JOYCE: Member for Hinkler, those opposite are on a journey, and maybe they are getting there. I will tell you where the journey started. I can remember when Peter Garrett told us that we were going to have six-metre sea rises by 2100. Remember that? I felt like buying a case of beer and going down to Coogee Beach to wait for the show, but it never happened. I read up on Bjorn Lomborg, who said we have had 30 centimetres in the last 150 years, but they are punting on six metres by the end of the century. It is quite spectacular.

But it does not stop there. The member for Isaacs talked about what was ‘routinely called the greatest market failure the world has ever seen’. Treasurer, you would probably be interested in this because, when he was talking about the greatest market failure, I thought—silly me—he was talking about 26 October 1929 when the Great Depression started. I thought he was talking about the Great Depression. But, no—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Moreton will desist or leave; the choice is his.

Mr JOYCE: Was he talking about 1637 and tulip mania? No. Was he talking about 1720 and the South Sea Bubble? No. Was he talking about 2000 and the dot-com crash? No. He was talking about carbon pricing. How did we miss it?

Not to be outdone, the then Prime Minister got in on the act and talked about the ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’. I thought that it might have been Pol Pot on 17 April 1975, but no. I thought it might have been fascism and the Second World War, but no. I thought it might have been Stalin and the communist gulags, but no. Once more it was carbon pricing. How did we miss it? How did we miss these things? But do not worry, we are continuing the fight right now. We are continuing to fight for it. It is over there in the other place, and the moment that you want a wake up to yourselves and reconnect with Australian people, just tell us about it.

Opposition members: More!

The SPEAKER: Order! There will be silence in the House.

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