Consideration of Urgent Motions
|About this Item||Subjects||Drought; Rural Finance; Pests; Planning and Development; Retail Trading; Liverpool Council; Westfield Holdings; Members of Parliament: Staff
||Speakers||Black Mr Peter; Brogden Mr John; Speaker
||Business||Consideration of Urgent Motion, Motion
||Commentary|| Procedural Debate to determine precedence
Exceptional Circumstances Drought Assistance
Mr PETER BLACK (Murray-Darling) [3.45 p.m.]: My motion is clearly urgent. At the outset I challenge the National Party to vote on the motion with Country Labor to ensure that it is given priority today. Nothing is more urgent than this motion, simply because we are eight hours from entering a Federal Government election campaign. We have eight hours for the Federal National Party to do something about straightening up the mess with regard to exceptional circumstances [EC] drought assistance. Exceptional circumstances drought assistance is the Federal Government's main vehicle for providing assistance directly to farmers.
This motion is urgent because more than 90 per cent of New South Wales is still drought declared, notwithstanding the good rain we have had over the last few days. This means that the vast majority of the State's farmers should be able to access income and business support. The Federal Government's EC system is tied up in red tape and complexity. The facts are that only approximately 4,200 farmers and graziers have been able to access support, which is an absolutely deplorable outcome. This motion is urgent because the Federal Government has eight hours—it can do it, if it wants to—to cut the red tape and inject a bit of commonsense into supporting the drought-relief program. The New South Wales Government has fought tooth and nail for positive change; now it is time for the Commonwealth to do the same.
This is the last chance for the Federal Government to roll over EC assistance to recipients already in possession of such assistance. This is the last chance for EC assistance to be extended to town businesses affected by drought. This is the last chance for the Federal Nationals to realistically consider town businesses, including fertiliser and machinery businesses and others, that have been badly affected by drought and are losing trade. This is the last chance for the Federal Nationals to eliminate the requirement for farmers and town businesses to show a reduction in income, and to simply require a reduction in production.
In my challenge to The Nationals to vote with Country Labor on this matter I point out that The Nationals have been responsible for the total mess in regard to how exceptional circumstances assistance is arrived at and offered to farmers. It is a fact of life that The Nationals have drawn up the rules concerning who receives EC and who does not. Indeed, it was a western New South Wales Nationals mayor who said, "What a disgrace it is. Let us simplify it and just require demonstration of loss of production in order to establish eligibility for EC."
This motion is urgent simply because of the fantastic performance of John Cobb, The Nationals member for Parkes. I cannot believe that John Cobb, the infamous member for Parkes, is telling the people in western New South Wales, his constituents, that damage from plague locusts is not a natural disaster. The honourable member for Murrumbidgee nods his head. Of course it is a natural disaster. What is the difference between a crop being wiped out by drought and a crop being wiped out by a plague of locusts?
The people who are asking for EC assistance now—and in some cases it appears that the drought may have broken in areas such as Broken Hill—are not asking for charity. Graziers and farmers are proud people. They are simply asking for a helping hand, for a simplification of EC assistance so they can restock after the drought breaks. It is as simple as that. We have a simple proposition to put to the Federal Nationals, including people like Warren Truss, who denies the statement made by his leader, John Anderson, the member for Gwydir, that "the damage from locusts does not fit national disaster criteria". [Time expired.]
Designer Outlets Centre, Liverpool, Closure
Mr JOHN BROGDEN (Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition) [3.50 p.m.]: This matter is urgent because this Parliament deserves to be given the opportunity to get to the bottom of the scandal surrounding the closure of the Orange Grove shopping centre. Today we saw a pathetic performance from the Premier, the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and the assistant Minister. The Premier's hand was shaking as he held a document because he now realises that the people of New South Wales know that he has done Westfield a big favour. Westfield is the big winner, and the losers are 450 workers in Western Sydney and 60 businesspeople whose livelihoods have been destroyed. In many cases those people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish their businesses. But what do we hear from this Government? We heard from the Minister for Planning—a nearby local member, if Bowral could be called nearby—that it was "an illegal development and a dodgy DA". Why did he open the illegal development? Why did he open the building that was delivered with a dodgy DA? Because he is also up to his neck in it. He is as thick as thieves with this crowd out there. We have heard nothing from the assistant Minister in response to the clear contradiction in relation to her statement that she was not told by the Premier's Chief of Staff, Graeme Wedderburn—
Mr Alan Ashton: Point of order: The Leader of the Opposition knows the standing orders. He has mentioned the word "urgent" only once in almost two minutes. He is debating the issue rather than establishing urgency.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I understand the gist of the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition may resume. However, I notice that he has a photograph. I do not know who is shown in the photograph, but I remind him of the precedents in relation to the use of props in the Chamber.
Mr JOHN BROGDEN: The assistant Minister clearly refused to answer the question about Mr Wedderburn's statement to the parliamentary committee last week that the Premier directed him to tell her to stick by the rules. The matter is urgent because she says that never happened. So who is lying—the assistant Minister, Mr Wedderburn or the Premier? That is why this matter is urgent. Of course we have heard nothing from the silent member for Fairfield, the coward who will not stand up for his workers or for small businesspeople in south-western Sydney. He is a coward and he is damned by his failure to add any commentary to the pathetic public statement he released yesterday.
This matter is urgent because it is clear that when Mark Ryan rang Graeme Wedderburn he said, "I'm coming over, mate, to make sure that your Government does not rezone that thing at Orange Grove because that will hurt Westfield." He met with Graeme Wedderburn and Wedderburn agreed. Wedderburn went to the Premier and said, "Westfield does not want this rezoned, Bob, so let's do over Gazcorp and do Westfield a favour." The Premier said, "Yep, good idea. We owe Westfield. Go down to Diane Beamer and tell her not to rezone this land." That is what happened.
Mr Steve Whan: Point of order: First, the Leader of the Opposition is not justifying why his matter should be granted urgency. Secondly, he is purporting to quote the Premier when in fact he is clearly not quoting the Premier.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows the standing orders. I draw his attention to them.
Mr JOHN BROGDEN: This matter is urgent because he will only be here for another 2½ years and I want a chance to debate it while he is still here. This matter is urgent because it is clear to all and sundry, every citizen of this State, that the Premier did a deal for Westfield, and in doing so destroyed 450 jobs and 60 businesses. That is what happened. The Government's pathetic failure to confront the issue today is a further demonstration of that. Government members went through the press gallery today and told the journos downstairs, "We've got a big bomb to drop". But nothing! It is very clear that this Labor Government is corrupt, it is rotten to the core. Its tentacles dig deep into the Liverpool council affair, and it is directly responsible for the loss of 450 jobs and 60 businesses. [Time expired.]
Question—That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Murray-Darling be proceeded with—agreed to.