darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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DROUGHT ASSISTANCE

October 20, 2010

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (9.55 am) — Last week I attended a forum in Bairnsdale hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation. It was a very constructive debate attended by about 70 people. Two of the key issues were the ongoing dry conditions and the impact of wild dogs on farming productivity and the natural environment. While there has been some recent and very welcome rainfall in the Gippsland area, the annual rainfall figures for the region still indicate very dry conditions in many parts of Gippsland and the exceptional circumstances provisions may need to be extended beyond 30 April next year. Neither this week’s rain nor the recent floods primarily caused by the snow melting have done enough to alleviate the very dry conditions farmers are recording in vast areas of my region.

One of the senior VFF representatives, Chris Nixon from Orbost, believes that the Gippsland and Eden Monaro areas are maybe the only two remaining areas in Australia that are still in drought. I raise this point because I have had the opportunity to speak briefly to the federal agriculture minister this week about this issue to simply highlight that it should not be assumed that all parts of Australia, and in this case, all parts of Gippsland, are showing signs of recovery from the drought. The EC provisions of income support and interest rate subsidies may need to be retained beyond 30 April next year.

On the issue of wild dogs—and I note the presence of the member for Indi, who also has a major problem with wild dogs in her electorate—many farmers are simply disgusted with the Brumby Labor government’s failure to recognise the extent of the problem and the impact it is having on regional families, both in Gippsland and in the upper Murray area.

I have raised this issue in the past and I will continue to do so until I am convinced that both the state and federal Labor governments understand the impact that these dogs have. Wild dogs not only affect the costs of farming but also produce social and environmental costs through the emotional stress placed on the mental health and well being of farming families and through their impact on native fauna.

The state candidate for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, is working with my colleagues at the state level to develop very practical solutions while Labor and the Independents simply talk about the problem. The coalition has already announced a bounty on wild dogs and foxes in the lead-up to the state election, and if it wins that election it is also committed to using aerial baiting as part of a suite of measures to complement the existing activities. I certainly do not blame the doggers on the ground—they are doing the best they can—but there has been a lack of urgency for the past decade from the Labor government in dealing with these problems.

A Victorian Liberal and Nationals coalition government will use aerial baiting to control wild dogs and protect livestock and native fauna. In addition to its introducing an aerial baiting program, the coalition will reinvigorate the wild dog management committees to increase their effectiveness and participation in decision making on wild dogs. It will also lobby the Gillard government to create a national threat abatement plan for wild dogs. These are more good reasons for Victorians to get rid of the arrogant Brumby government. It is an arrogant government which is Melbourne-focused and it is completely out of touch with the needs of regional families.

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