Speech: The government's failure on regional Australia

Speech: The government's failure on regional Australia Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (15:57):  This may only be my second week speaking in this chamber, but I am absolutely gobsmacked at the coalition's failure to look after the interests of regional Australia. Time and time again those opposite say how good they are for farmers and for rural Australia, but as someone that grew up on a dairy farm I know that couldn't be further from the truth. Where was the coalition when local dairy farmers in my electorate needed help? Where was the coalition when local dairy farmers in drought were selling thousands of cattle to survive? I heard from local farmers directly on these issues and many more. I've held kitchen tables with local dairy farmers to show my support, to listen to their concerns and to canvas ideas about how to secure a more sustainable industry. When the Prime Minister came to Nowra in his COMCAR, guarded by the Australian Federal Police, he would not even meet with local dairy farmers. Local dairy farmers said, 'Prime Minister, it's cheaper to wash your car in milk than it is in water.'


Our dairy farmers deserve better. It is not acceptable for our farmers to be paid less than the cost of producing their milk. They work their guts out. They take time away from their families every day to bring Australians a staple, a staple I can almost guarantee you the Prime Minister uses every day. They deserve to have that sacrifice valued by this government. But the coalition is all talk and no action. Our dairy industry is in crisis. They are caught in a long-running cost price squeeze that is being compounded by drought and Morrison government inaction. I am more than willing to work with the government to help our dairy farmers before it's too late.

My dad was a dairy farmer. I know that dairy farms mean jobs, and jobs are something we need desperately on the New South Wales South Coast. I spoke only last week in this place about the ways the government is failing my community on jobs. The notorious Princes Highway, a stretch of road between Jervis Bay and the Victorian border, claimed the lives of 30 people between July 2012 and June 2017. It claimed eight lives in the single six-month period between December 2017 and June 2018. I ask the government: do they think regional Australia should have to face this reality on their local roads? Regional Australia doesn't think they should have to cop that. The people of the New South Wales South Coast and Far South Coast deserve to be safe on their roads. They deserve a government that will invest in them. Not only will this save lives but it will also create jobs and stimulate the economy. I ask the government: where is the federal funding for the Princes Highway? We should not have to wait for these improvements. This government needs to fix it faster. The people of regional Australia deserve that much.

We deserve to have hospitals that don't leave people sleeping on benches for hours, or waiting a year for life-saving tests and treatment. Last night in the chamber I told the House about Tina, but Tina is not alone. I have heard from so many people just like Tina, people who praise the efforts of our local doctors, nurses, paramedics, and health workers, but recognise that those efforts are undermined because this government won't invest in them. I wonder if the Prime Minister would be happy to wait 24 hours for a bed. I wonder if the Prime Minister would be happy to have to travel two hours up the road for a simple test.

I have invited this government to work with me to improve the outcomes for people in my electorate. The people of regional Australia deserve to have a government that invests in them, that believes in them and that looks after them. I will always stand with regional dairy farmers. I will always stand with regional doctors, nurses, paramedics and aged-care workers. I will always stand with regional Australians struggling to find work. I call on the government to stand with me and stand with them. We can't afford to wait.