Address, Daily Telegraph Bush Summit

Transcript
18 Jul 2019
Dubbo, NSW
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Ben and welcome to everybody here and thank you for your very kind welcome and introduction. 

Can I particularly thank Aunty Margaret for her welcome to country here today, and the boys from Clontarf. In Mark Coultan and I you won't find two stronger supporters of the Clontarf Foundation all around the country, I know that is shared by the Parliament and I am sure Anthony would agree. 

It is a magnificent organisation and we’re so proud to see you boys up here doing that today. Gerard and Ross would be proud of what you are doing back over there in the west. 

Can I of course acknowledge my many colleagues here today. I don't think I'll call the roll but we're all here today together, whether it is state, federal and local, indeed, to focus on these very important issues. 

But to the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, who is here with us today, the Deputy Prime Minister who will be speaking as well, it is great to be here with Michael. Bridget McKenzie, our first ever female Minister for Agriculture in Australia, it’s great to have you here with us. 

And Matt Canavan is here, he’s here from Queensland. I just wanted to be sure, Matt didn't come here today because he lost a bet over the Origin. That’s not true, I won't have it said. Matt is here as Minister of Resources and that is a critical part of regional and rural Australia and particularly here in NSW. Thank you Matt for making your way down today, I know you were an early sign up to the event. 

And of course to be here with Mark Coulton, who is the local member. Once again, it’s great to be back here in Dubbo.

I also begin by acknowledging the elders of the Wiradjuri nation. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, as we’ve seen here this morning with the Clontarf boys. 

I also want to acknowledge any servicemen or women from the Australian Defence Force and any veterans here today and say simply: Thank you for your service. 

I also want to thank the Daily Telegraph and Ben English in particular for bringing this Summit together.

Today is once again about bringing Australians together.

Now, it would be a great mistake I think for those of us who come from the relative economic shelter of the suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne or South East Queensland, to think that we are somehow immune from the challenges faced in rural and regional Australia. This is a dangerous and false sense of security that some may sometimes feel.

The fact that the Daily Telegraph, which is Sydney’s leading daily newspaper, is bringing this Summit together here in Dubbo, I think speaks volumes. It says that they understand that the future of regional and rural Australia is also about the future of all Australians, regardless of whether you read the Daily Telegraph or indeed here in Dubbo the Daily Liberal. What a great name for a publication.

[Laughter]

You should change the name Ben.

[Laughter]

I don't think Anthony would agree.

Australia’s economic and environmental future has always been and will always be dependent on the success of rural and regional Australia. That’s why we’re here.

Our Government’s plan for Australia’s future is based on and invested in this very important principle.

It’s good to be back in Dubbo. I was last here a few months ago with Michael and Bridget and David Littleproud and we went out to Kevin and Robyn West’s property in Eumengerie.

Whilst I was there, they kindly offered me the opportunity to shear a sheep. 

Now, I’m not sure who was more concerned  – me, my media team who were in a startled frenzy, or indeed the sheep. And we all had cause for concern.

And the journalists looking on I can assure you were certainly not on my side, they are always looking for a great pic Warren, or potentially a great cartoon, I have no doubt. And from that point of view, they weren’t on the sheep’s side. They could see an embarrassing picture coming. 

The last time I had stood in a shearing shed, while shearing was on, was at my Uncle’s property at Greenwood, outside of Cloncurry in North Queensland.  I had been there with my brother, we’d been sent up by our parents to experience life in the bush. And it was a life changing experience for me as a young fella.

Thankfully, as we roused about Uncle Bill’s shearing shed, I had observed very carefully the skills of the shearer on that day. And as I crouched aside that sheep in Eumengerie, it all came flooding back. 

So it all went OK. Good news for me, good news for the sheep, who I am sure was very grateful for retaining a slightly thicker winter fleece over the winter period than she normally would have had.

The bush has a wonderful place in the soul of every Australian, whether we have a direct personal connection or not. 

For many in our cities, just like Warren was mentioning, you only have to go back a few generations in your family history to find someone who picked up from the bush and moved to the city.

In my own family, it was my grandmother, who left behind multiple generations of Thorncrafts and Greenhalghs in Eugowra when they came to the city to marry my grandfather, Sandy.

Mardie, as we knew her, grew up in the depression in that farming community in NSW. She worked at the local store. Her sister, Neva worked for a local doctor.

She used to play piano for a local trio that used to tour the district around all the country dances, which were so important to keep the community together at that time. She told me that during the depression there was always people in the house. Theirs was one of those houses. Everyone was there around the piano, because Mardie played the piano, Doris was her name, and they would share a meal when they could. They shared what they had.

And for me as a young person listening to these stories of my grandmother, it was my first early lesson on the bonds that tie regional and rural communities together. 

Now I have seen that, as I’m sure my colleagues have, time and time and time again in the generations since. 

So while many urban Australians, and that’s what I am. I once famously said I don’t know one sheep’s end from another, but that was sorted out at Eumengerie.

It is important that we can make contact and keep between our cities and the bush and understand that our future is shared. 

I want us to grow together, not apart as we go forward.

I want Australians in regional areas in particular to know that their efforts, their struggles and their values are respected by all Australians. Particularly as they face the challenges they do now.

More recently I have become very concerned about the disconnection between the city and the bush, and this is what has led Ben to bring us together today.

The recent spate of highly organised farm invasions is utterly disgraceful. As a Government, we are taking strong legislative action as promised. 

Those laws have been introduced to criminalise these actions of these cowardly keyboard warriors inciting these crimes. That’ll happen next week. I want the Parliament to pass them within the next fortnight. These Australians should not have to worry about whether the Parliament is on their side. I don’t believe they will have that worry as we go through this.

But these extreme actions betray a much more concerning trend. 

Last time I was here in Dubbo I referred to this research conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research. 

40 per cent of Grade 10 students in secondary schools in Australia believed farming damaged the environment. Now what is interesting is that figure for Grade 6 year olds was 17 per cent. That’s quite a shift in four years.

Any wonder that we’ve now got activists storming farms.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of Grade 6 students believed cotton socks came from an animal and 45 per cent believed bananas, bread and cheese didn’t come from farming.

We have to bridge this divide and connect Australians once again with what’s happening in our rural and regional communities and ensure there is an appropriate balance in what our kids are being taught in our schools and in our communities. 

Our farmers are Australia’s best environmentalists. They have to be. Their livelihood and those who depend on them in rural and regional towns around the country depend on them being the best environmentalists in the country. To think they are anything but that, and for our kids to be told that they are anything but that, just makes you shake your head. 

And that’s why we have committed, and I did on that day when I was last here in Dubbo, $10 million to reconnect urban kids with our farms and rural and regional Australia, through a programme of supporting farm visits by students and to bring the ifarm initiative, which many of you would know about, into our urban schools so that kids can understand what happens on farms, how things grow, and how that changes and supports their livelihoods and their daily lives. And that programme, that money will begin to roll out next year in 2020. 

These are practical things we can do to bring communities closer together between the bush and the city. But the here and now, as we have already talked about in rural Australia is very much about drought. 

Unrelenting drought.

A drought measured in years, it’s taking its toll and wearing away even the strongest souls and strongest communities.

A drought that in just the past twelve months has seen farm GDP decline by almost seven per cent.

When I first became Prime Minister I went with Michael and we went up to western Queensland to Quilpie to see for myself what was happening on the ground.

That was followed up by the National Drought Summit last year, which was brought together and included particularly the work done by Major General Steven Day as our National Drought Coordinator.

At that National Drought Summit we brought together all States and Territories, producers, rural stakeholders, agricultural scientists, meteorologists, charitable organisations and many more to focus on a coordinated national drought action plan.

Now, that plan was not just about drought relief. Because rural and regional communities have told us so clearly that it had to be about longer term recovery and resilience to realise the opportunities ahead. Because in rural and regional Australia, you look into the future. Because your head is not down, it’s up. And it’s out. And we agree. And our view about regional and rural Australia is the same. It’s up and it’s out. It’s looking to the future. 

Since then we have been implementing this plan and I particularly want to extend my public thanks to Major General Steven Day and his team for the work they did to bring this plan together and work with Government Ministers and Departments, communities and producers across the affected areas of the country. They covered a lot of territory. Major General Day has now finished that task, and it is now the task of the Drought Minister Littleproud who is running that programme directly.

Our national drought strategy and long-term plan continues to be based on the clear foundations and directions set out by Major General Day. That is drought is an enduring, regular feature of the Australian landscape and is likely to become more regular.

Drought preparations and planning must always continue, especially during times when there is no drought.

Building drought resilience requires comprehensive understanding and integrated management of our soil, vegetation and water resources.

Drought policies, programmes and preparation must be developed with industry, the ag industry and communities and informed by the best possible information. 

That means ensuring that this information is collected, that it’s accurate, that it’s timely, that it’s collated, that it’s shared and it’s understood. We need to all be on the same page, with a common operating picture, which is what Major General Day worked to bring about at that Summit.

To make good decisions, to have more options, you’ve always got to have better information. 

Our rural producers and communities need more and better information to help them to plan better and to make better calls about their own futures. Whether it is how they can diversify their income, and that will increasingly be a factor in rural and regional Australia, staying up to date with new farming practices or technology or simply being kept up to date with Government programmes and initiatives that are out there at all levels on Government.

That’s how you help people, I think, take charge and stay in charge of their futures. By giving them the tools and information to make their own decisions, not having state, federal and local governments tell people what they should be doing.

Our regulatory regimes and policy frameworks need to help, not stymie.

This means abolishing unnecessary and bureaucratic rules that get in the way or demoralise recovery and resilience efforts.

We must continue to support and bolster community leadership capabilities which have been outstanding throughout the drought to aid planning and to cope with future shocks and stresses. 

Our drought response has not made it rain, of course it can’t. But our efforts, in addition to those provided by State Governments, and the Deputy Premier John Barilaro is here today here in NSW, have been practical and they have been substantial – with $7 billion at a Commonwealth level in measures for drought relief and recovery announced and being implanted to date. 

This includes:

  • Over 7,000 farmers currently receiving the Farm Household Allowance - and almost 12,000 farmers over the life of the program - with over $114 million provided through that allowance and the supplement last financial year alone;
  • Concessional loans to support farmers and communities - doubling the total funding for low interest loans to $500 million a year - and doubling the limit available to farmers - up to $2 million;
  • Additional financial counselling support for farmers and small businesses. Those rural financial counsellors have been a Godsend in drought affected areas;
  • The Drought Communities Programme – getting money out into local communities, so that the pharmacy, milk bar, the hairdresser, the news agency is still there when the drought has passed. It’s already provided $84 million directly into local communities. Cheques cleared, funds transferred, money spent. For example, the Dubbo Regional Council used its funding for investing in Stuart Town Water Supply, the installation of shades for the Dubbo Livestock Markets, and an ambulant toilet facility here in the CBD. Practical projects that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

 As well, we are providing across Australia:

  • New investments in water infrastructure through the national water grid;
  • Over $25 million in new support for producers and graziers to help manage pests, animals and weeds;
  • Major investments in vital mental health services and support including $29.4 million in drought specific mental health support; and
  • Over $50 million to support major charities and not for profit organisations who are working on the ground to help affected communities, including the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society, Rotary Australia World Community Service and the Country Women’s Association.   

Our approach has not been to set and forget. We continue to assess everything we are doing to ensure it hits the mark. In particular, I am referring to the Farm Household Allowance.

The Allowance provides our farming families with food on the table, fuel in the car and clothing. That is the responsibility of the Commonwealth under the arrangements we have with the states and territories in income support.

With drought continuing, we’re constantly reviewing the that support that we provide - including FHA.

The recent independent review of the Allowance found that the current arrangements need to be improved to better align with the reality that farming in Australia is very volatile.

It recommended that FHA be available to farming families for four years in every 10 and that’s coming before Government and their going to get a very good hearing on that. 

Minister Littleproud is working with the industry on the long-term drought strategy and we’ll have more to say on that in the coming months.

We know our climate is changing, and we know that drought has always been part of the Australian landscape. 

We know this drought won’t be the last. That’s why we are seeking to establish a Future Drought Fund – with an initial investment of $3.9 billion rising to $5 billion.

The Future Drought Fund, which will draw down over $100 million next year, will provide a sustainable source of funding for drought resilience works, preparedness and recovery.

Now this is the only partisan note I’m going to make today, and I’m sure Albo will make one, perhaps. Just one - or maybe a few more here and there. 

But this is not something we agree on. The legislation will be in the Parliament next week. I’m releasing the draft of that legislation today. It hasn’t changed, it’s what we put before the Parliament last time. But it wasn’t passed. 

We’re investing our money in infrastructure, $100 billion as Michael will refer to, and that Drought Fund  needs to pass the Parliament. If Labor doesn’t support it then we will work with the crossbench, which we did on income tax cuts, where they were opposed leading up to that vote and we ensured that they passed. 

We must be careful though, having spoken about drought -  and I thank you for indulging me for your time today, I’ll get that in -  that the drought doesn’t mask the many achievements that are occurring in agriculture.

Our farmers are amongst the best in the world, if not the best

75 per cent of what our farmers produce is exported. Our farmers feed more than 40 million people at least, and they’ll feed more.

According to ABARE the value of farm production is about $60 billion. That’s up by a half in a decade where we have been six years, seven years in drought. 

I know we can do better, and you know we can too.

The National Farmers’ Federation also believes we can do better. We can hit $100 billion by 2030. And I am determined to ensure that we do.

That’s why today I’m announcing that Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie will draw together a national plan to enable Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to become a $100 billion industry by 2030. 

And that all means one thing - more jobs.

Despite the drought being in the first five years of this Government, employment grew by over 200,000 in areas outside our capital cities. 

And here in NSW - and credit to the NSW Government - we have seen 30 per cent of all jobs growth occur in regional areas. This is a testimony to the power of economic diversification and income diversification in these sectors.

Our ‘100:30’ plan will come together in the months ahead, working with the primary producing sector, drawing on earlier work that is being done, building on our achievements to date and will be reflected in the announcements we make between now next year’s Budget. 

We are going to invest in policies designed to achieve this goal. More and bigger markets, removing non-tariff trade barriers, new investments in Research and Development, adoption of new digital farming technologies, assisting with intergenerational land transfers, ensuring our water policy hits the mark, access to finance, enhancing soil health, and new efforts tackling pests and weeds and managing native vegetation.

Our investment will in turn give greater confidence to all those who are investing or planning to invest in the future of our primary producing sectors. We’re backing them in which will give them confidence to that they can back them in also.

Since 2013 on trade deals, just to give you an idea of what we’re already achieving, we have secured duty-free or preferential access to 1.7 billion additional customers.

Regional communities, along with our cities, are already benefiting from agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, Peru, Indonesia, Hong Kong, our Pacific Island nation states, the EU and the UK are next cabs off the rank.

We’re working on the RCEP deal throughout ASEAN and southeast Asia and I will be in Vietnam very, very shortly. 

Our goal is to expand our export markets and lift the share of our two way trade covered by these agreements to more than 90 per cent by 2022. Now we can hit that, because when we came to office it was 26 per cent and it is now more than 70 per cent. We’re going to 90 per cent by 2022.

Our $100 billion goal is achievable. Just like our goal to create 1.25 million jobs and 250,000 new small and family businesses over the next five years.

I want this goal to focus our policy development and delivery efforts. Australians should expect their Government to tell them what their policies are designed to achieve, and that’s what this is designed to achieve.

Now I want to talk a bit about our environmental landscape before I close. And in particular the management of our water, soils and land.

In each of these spheres we must make generational leaps.

At the National Drought Summit I convened last year, there was one voice I must say that stood out above all the others and it stuck in my head. It was the voice of the former National Soils advocate and former Governor General Major General Michael Jeffery.

He articulated a soldier’s common sense to these diabolical problems.

He argues that one gram of carbon in the soil can carry eight times its weight in water. An eight to one ratio. And as he notes, it works in reverse also, not in a good way. Scientists will argue the numbers but the point is what’s important.

Healthy soils with a higher carbon component, protecting our soils, remediating our soils, is essential for any serious water resource management policy. This is especially true in Australia where, due to the increasing marginality of the lands we farm, we must do more with less.

That’s the reality, that’s the business risk of running a business in the agricultural sector.

Australian soils are under strain.

They’ve been working overtime, producing food for a growing population and to meet international demand for our high-quality produce.

They’ve been eroded by wind.

They’ve been baked by drought.

They’ve been impacted by, on occasion, not the best practices.

While we have areas of highly fertile soil, overall our soil is often poorly structured and affected by salinity and other issues.

Australia isn’t unique in facing these sorts of challenges.

Around the world we’re seeing arable land being lost, and soil carbon levels at very low levels.

Our farmers are the stewards of this precious resource. With around 60 percent of Australia being used for agricultural production, farmers are at the forefront of managing this vital asset on behalf of 25 million largely urban Australian, including on the coast.

I agree with Major General Michael Jeffery that we can step-up when it comes to soil management.

As he set out in his final advice to Government in 2017 in his now retired role of National Soils Advocate, 

Australian farmers can improve their profitability and the resilience of their farming systems, even in the face of more frequent and extreme droughts, and climate change, if they are supported in nurturing their soils … Excellent soil management increases water storage, builds carbon, slows rates of soil acidification and minimises soil lost through win and soil erosion.”

So today, I am recalling Major General Jeffery to service as our National Soils Advocate once again. We will also be making this role a permanent office, beyond Michael’s role, properly supported by Government, particularly through my own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The role will advise across portfolios including education, training, overseas development assistance, science and technology, the digital economy, agriculture, water policy, and regional development on our national soil strategies and initiatives.

It will take on a broader global advocacy role on soils as part of my Government’s broader global environmental agenda, which will address issues such as oceans anand coasts and waste management, especially within the Indo-Pacific and as part of the Pacific Step-Up, working with our Pacific Island nation family, with whom Major General Jeffery is very familiar and highly respected.

But for Major General Jeffery to do his work, knowing him pretty well he always wants a very clear statement of mission, a context with which to work.

That is why our Government will support his recommendation to adopt as a national objective to ‘restore and maintain the health of the Australian agricultural landscape to guarantee a food secure nation and sustainable farming communities.’

We will also support Major General Jeffery’s work by providing $2 million over 4 years for the invaluable work of Soils for Life. This is an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging the adoption of regenerative landscape management. 

The good news is that there is a lot to work with in this area, there is a lot being done. 

Our $40 million investment in the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils is going very well.

The CRC involves a whole lot of scientists from a range of areas including social science, economics, biology, chemistry, agronomy and soil science. 

It joins them up with farmers so they can put their minds together to work out how to increase soil performance in the short and long term by educating them in soil knowledge and increasing their technical capacity to more effectively extend cutting edge soil science into the broader farming community. 

It is already working in partnership on research projects with Charles Sturt University, the University of Tasmania, the University of Newcastle and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Alongside the Government investment in the CRC, there’s also more than $120 million in additional contributions from 39 participants.

It’s the largest collaborative soil research effort in Australia’s history, and its work is essential to the health of the bush.

The head of the Soil CRC, Michael Crawford, has painted a picture of what soil management practices and tools Australian farmers might be using in the year 2030, based on potential outcomes from the research they’re doing.

For example, measuring soil characteristics would be revolutionised – so you’d no longer have to take bulk soil core samples, send them off to a lab and wait four weeks for a result.

Instead, farmers could access real-time measurements of a wide range of soil metrics using hand-held, machine-mounted or in situ sensors that provide cheap, accurate and timely information.

The research is looking at how farmers can be supported to be much more targeted and precise in their ability to manage soil. 

These projects are everything from mining nutrients from waste streams to use in fertilisers, to further development of carbon sequestration.

The challenge of soil management is an area where you will see more announcements ahead.

It is also clear to me and my colleagues that Australia has underinvested in water infrastructure.

We want to deliver the water infrastructure projects that will drive growth, create jobs and support local communities.

 This is why we are establishing the National Water Grid.

The Grid will develop a pipeline of projects - that is, build dams - and bring together the world’s best scientists to better understand and build our plan for water allocation, capture and storage.

The Grid will build on the Government’s $1.3 billion investment to fast-track water infrastructure through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility.

We will have to more to say on this project, and much of that will be said by the Deputy Prime Minister who is leading this project. 

Let me say a few words about the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Basin isn’t just the source of precious water. It’s our food bowl. Almost half our irrigated agricultural production comes from the Basin.

It’s home to more than 2 million people and supports tens of thousands of businesses. 

I know this is a difficult area - plagued by more than a century of overlapping and often ill-considered state deals, squabbling over a national water resource with very little vision to the long term. 

So long as States cling to these legacy deals, we will be locked out of a further step change in how we manage this precious resource and build on the Murray Darling Basin Plan. 

The Basin Plan works within these imposed constraints.

Now I know there are plenty of people prepared to criticise the Basin Plan. 

And the truth is, change is always going to mean difficult choices in this area – and more so when compounded by the effects of the drought.

But the fact is, this plan is the best chance we have to get the balance right, keep the river alive and ensure our regional communities stay resilient. 

Others might say it’s the worst plan, except for all the other alternatives. 

Either way, it’s the plan we’ve got. 

The plan has bipartisan support, which makes it workable. 

The potential to unpick the plan is both limited in scope and carries with it the risk of only making the plan worse, not better.

Six years in, we have recovered around 2,100 gigalitres of water to keep the rivers healthy. 

And we are making sure we use water efficiently by building more than $3 billion of water infrastructure projects throughout the Basin to better manage water resources, and improve the water infrastructure that supports farms and regional communities.

It remains a work in progress. For the Government it’s about making it work and doing what’s achievable.

Turning back to land, we’ve now entered Phase 2 of the National Landcare Program.

We’ve got $1.1 billion going into Landcare - including funding to support smart farming and sustainable agricultural projects.

These projects prevent soil degradation and help agricultural communities build resilience against drought and a changing climate.

One such project is in Yeoval, about 60kms from here for the Little River landcare group to host a number of Masterclasses for local farmers, including a recent soil masterclass about making soils more profitable and sustainable over time.

As well, our $134 million Smart Farms small grants are about helping farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities adopt best practice land management. 

Our $450 million Regional Land Partnerships are about helping develop, trial and implement innovative technologies and practices that protect natural resources and support sustainable production across primary industries.

These programs have been particularly beneficial during the on-going drought. Because the reality is that drought conditions are unlikely to ease in the short term.

The success of our regional economies are obviously linked to the performance of our primary producers. That is why I have chosen today to focus the majority of my remarks on our primary producing and agricultural landscape.

But this summit is more than about drought and agriculture.

That is why it is worth mentioning our $100 billion pipeline of infrastructure investment, that includes major road and rail upgrades to better connect regional communities.

Our $9.3 billion commitment to inland rail is about changing the way freight moves along the eastern seaboard – between Melbourne and Brisbane.

We are also making major investments in regional rail in Victoria and Queensland – backed in with our ongoing program of works for the Bruce Highway and the Pacific Highway.

Our $4.5 billion investment in Roads of Strategic Importance will upgrade freight routes and help agriculture and mining exporters.

Locally, in Central and Western NSW, we’ve invested in the Newell highway (more than $760 million), including $100 million for the Parkes bypass.

As well, we are investing heavily in regional communications with:

  • Our black spots program delivering over 1,000 new mobile phone towers;
  • $420 million for schools in regional areas;
  • New regional study hubs and improved access to Youth Allowance for regional students; and
  • A regional health strategy set to deliver 3,000 additional doctors and 3,000 additional nurses and health professionals in rural general practice over the next decade, as well as important telehealth services funded through Medicare.

One key aspect of economic resilience in regional areas is the presence of a diversified economy. 

That means the encouragement and support of industries such as higher education, mining and tourism. Industries that will even out the cyclical aspects of agriculture.

And I will never allow those in our cities to tell those in our regions and in rural areas what industries they can work in, how they should live or how they should seek to protect their way of life into the future. 

What is in the interests of rural and regional Australians is in the national interest.

This will bring together the stories and experiences of how regional economies are diversifying, how regional industries are finding their way, how regional communities are boosting their resilience and working together to secure their future. 

So, in closing let me thank the Daily Telegraph again for inviting me to be here today and everybody who is here today, everybody who has come to make a contribution.

Thank you also, Ben, for inviting me to be here today for the participation I have been able to have.

Let me celebrate once again that so many of our regions are succeeding despite the challenges. This gives me great confidence about the future. 

That’s why we will be establishing a House Select Committee that looks at the future of rural and regional Australia which Tony Pasin, the Member for Barker, will Chair. That will work right across to make sure we are looking at those great stories and what is happening in a positive way in rural and regional Australia. 

That’s an important next step for us leading up to the regional statement that Michael will make as Minister for Regional Development.

And let me assure you that our job, as your Government, is to back you in.

That we do what we promised to do at the recent election - and that is to give a go to regional Australians because they are having a go.

Thank you very much.

[Applause]