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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3507 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

Yesterday we had a motion in relation to Bali expressing concern and a deeply-held commitment by this Assembly in the wake of blood staining the wattle. I would suggest to you we should have equally compassionate consideration for the fact that drought has parched the wattle.

I would strongly suggest that members support Mr Humphries' motion.

MRS DUNNE (11.47): I thank members for their lesson on the need for water policy. I am pleased that some members have started to recognise that this is an issue and have reservations about the wackier ideas espoused by members of the Farmhand Foundation about turning back the rivers. This is not a motion in favour of endorsing every aspect of the Farmhand Foundation; this is a motion about making a social contribution to a social crisis.

I thank members for their lesson on the great conspiracy theory. This is the best conspiracy theory since the one about the CIA undermining Gough. You expect to find it in this place. We have got all these people here together-this fellow from Telstra, this fellow from Foxtel and Kerry Packer. There must be a conspiracy. There must be an ulterior motive. It must be about money. As Mr Cornwell said, there are no union bosses and there is no Bob Brown, so it does not have any social responsibility.

This motion today is not about the environmental crisis. This motion is not in a sense about the drought. This motion calls on this government, this Assembly and this territory to show some leadership and some solidarity. This motion is about social and family crisis in the bush.

We talk about the bush-and we are sitting in Canberra. We might sound patronising. Quite frankly, I am about to patronise, because it seems to me that there is not one member of this chamber who has any idea of the impact of drought in this country. There is not one member who can sit here and say, "We need to have a better environmental policy."I agree entirely, but there is obviously not one member in this chamber who has any idea what it is like to look out on your crops and see them wilt and die and see their income for this year and next year go. There is obviously not one member in this chamber who has ever had to put down stock because there was no water and the stock were going to die.

There is not one member of this chamber who has had to take their stock to market to sell them when they were underprepared, when the hide was falling off them and they knew that the only thing that was going to happen was that they were going to go to the knackers yards and they would get a dollar a head if they were lucky. There is not one member in this place who knows what it is like to put their cattle on the trucks and see their farm income not just for this year but for two or three years afterwards go.

We had sanctimonious assertions by the minister, who said, "We are not going to do anything, because the Commonwealth has not done anything."This is utter rubbish. Governments come and go. The contribution of the Commonwealth towards drought relief is phenomenal. Since 1997 they have spent $800 million on agriculture advancing Australia programs to help people on the land. At the moment there is scope for exceptional circumstances relief.

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