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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3506 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

What I have heard from other members, with the exception of my colleague Mr Humphries, is homilies about the overall problem. We had a science one from Ms Tucker. The analogy I can make-and I am sorry I have to bring water into this-is the Titanic sinking and somebody wanting to sit in the lounge discussing whether or not you could put double hulls in ships. It seems to me that what we have to do is address the immediate problem. This is what Mr Humphries' motion is about.

We heard all about the Wentworth Group. I was waiting patiently, but Blaxland and Lawson did not come along. That perhaps is a mercy. However, the unmistakable fact is that whether we like it or not we are part of the region. Indeed, we used to have an observer status at the division H shires meeting which is held in Queanbeyan every three months. We no longer have that representation.

Individual ACT residents have contributed to the television appeal for Farmhand. One has to ask, and they would ask: why shouldn't their government? The simple fact, as we have seen demonstrated this morning, is that with the exception of the Liberal opposition this Assembly is anti-rural. They are not concerned about the plight of people in rural areas across the country. How the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope, is going to face the next regional forum of H division when he hosts it, if he hosts it, I do not know. The H division of local government shires association, which meets here at regular intervals, is chaired by none other than the Chief Minister of the ACT because we are part of the Australian capital region. How he is going to host the next forum I do not know.

The member councils of H division are Bega Valley, Bombala, Boorowa, Cooma-Monaro, Crookwell, Eurobodalla, Gunning, Harden, Mulwaree, Snowy River, Talaganda, Yarrowlumla, Yass and Young. Goulburn and Queanbeyan city councils are associate members. The vast majority on that list are drought declared. I wish you luck, Mr Stanhope, at the next meeting.

Admittedly, Farmhand is Australia-wide, but we still have a regional commitment to the surrounding rural centres. I believe that a contribution, therefore, by this government is not only justified but mandatory, particularly in view of a reply Mr Stanhope gave me in relation to a failure to send a representative or an observer along to the H division meetings in Queanbeyan. Mr Stanhope concluded by saying:

I have and will continue to host meetings of the Regional Leaders Forum three times a year. The RLF facilitates productive linkages between the Australian Capital Region and the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments. Significant contributions continue to be made to the economic, business, environmental, social and cultural development of the Australian Capital Region.

I would imagine that if we were fair dinkum about this commitment we would not be talking about what may be possible in the future, about what needs to be done about the terrible environmental situation or about the fact that, guess what, Australia is subject to drought. We need to do something right now to alleviate the pressures on people in the rural areas in surrounding shires, at whose meetings we are an observer and whose representatives we host three times a year in this spoilt national capital.

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