Constitution Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2020

I rise to speak on the Constitution Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2020. I am absolutely flabbergasted. I am glad to be following the new Minister for Agriculture because that was some performance. I am going to begin by telling you a story. Before I was a member of Parliament, I represented farmers. I sat on the—

Oh, it is a pity you do not stay, Minister, because I reckon we could have a chat about some of the things you have been doing in the last couple of weeks as the new minister that show you have no understanding of the farming community. But walk out just when I start to talk about what actually really did happen, because I was actually sitting around the table at the time.

As a member of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria policy council representing south-west Victoria, I was sitting around that table when the government was sending the scientists and the departments—I think it would have been Department of Primary Industries or Department of Natural Resources and Environment around that time, or Department of Environment and Primary Industries, yes; the changes were hard to keep up with—to actually tell us about the fact that the Labor government had done the work and that according to the people coming in and trying to tell us the story, it would be safe for fracking to take place in Victoria. I can remember sitting around that table many a time having the evidence put in front of me—supposed evidence—that fracking was okay.

Now, my job as south-west Victoria’s representative—I was actually western Victoria’s representative—was to go back and share that information with the farmers. So I would go to the meetings and I would say, ‘This is what we were told’, and the farmers would be absolutely livid. I can remember Basil Ryan, who has had a long history in water management—you will probably remember him, member for South Gippsland. Basil has been in the VFF for many years, and he was mortified. He said, ‘You are kidding me. We cannot risk agricultural land. This fracking is dangerous. It will be dangerous to the water table. It will harm our agricultural land’. The farmers did not agree. I did my duty and reported it with absolute cynicism and fear, and I was very pleased that the farmers actually did not for one minute take that with any sense of confidence or anything.

So I sit here today, and I hear the Labor government, who were the only ones—not the Liberals, not the Nationals; we have never been part of issuing any licences, not exploratory licences, not licences in any shape or form. But from this Labor team across here we have had the member for Northcote—who would have to be aware that her father was the energy minister issuing those licences at the time—and the Minister for Agriculture actually standing there and saying that it was the Liberals and The Nationals who have not come to the party. We actually led the charge against it. We set the moratorium in place to begin with. We were the very first ones that said, ‘No. No, this is not okay’. It was Labor who issued the licences to frack. It cannot be clearer than that.

What we see is a government that is so good at spin, they are so blatant in the way they will spin a story to cover up their ineptitude and inept behaviour, it has just scratched the surface. I have said this in here a number of times: just scratch the surface and the truth actually comes forward. I am sorry, but I could not believe what I just heard from the new Minister for Agriculture. To lie to the farmers and say—I am sorry I misused that word, I am not allowed to use that word—to tell a mistruth and tell farmers that we were not there.

A member interjected.

Ms Green: The member for South-West Coast has corrected herself, but I would ask that that word be withdrawn from the record. She knows that that word is unparliamentary.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Suleyman): Just to advise the member for Yan Yean and the house that we cannot amend that. The member has corrected the record.

Ms BRITNELL: I think what I am saying here is people are not silly enough to fall for the attempt to just have the Liberals wedged in these sorts of political attempts. You guys are not caring about farmers. You do not care about the environment and the landscape. Every day a farmer gets out of bed, they think about the fact that their grandchildren are the ones who are going to be working the land in three generations time. That is what we think about when we get out of bed in the morning. So, I am sorry. The minister—already, in her very short time—has proven her poor understanding of agriculture.

To actually be sitting by while manure, and cow manure in particular—and obviously you know I come from a dairy farming background, where we have to deal with quite a large amount of manure waste on an annual basis, and we do that by recycling, putting it back into the soil and making sure it is managed by testing and making sure it is done correctly.

But the minister has now labelled it as industrial waste, and it just makes no sense. It actually does not achieve any purpose, except to give farmers more of a regulatory burden and make us more uncompetitive internationally due to domestic policies that ministers like this, who have very little understanding, go and make before they have even got their feet under the table. That is not to mention the situation we have got with food labelling.

That is something I sat around the Australian Dairy Farmers board table for many years talking about—the star grade proposition to help with obesity and to help with nutrition. That is all very important, but when you have got something like orange juice—freshly squeezed orange juice, orange juice that has no sugar added—being put in a position where it is going to be lower from a star rating perspective than soft drink, then that is something I am very disappointed with. When David Littleproud, the federal member, actually recognised it—

Mr Foley interjected.

Ms BRITNELL: Well, did you vote in favour of that or not?

Mr Foley: On a point of order, Acting Speaker, Minister Littleproud is not the federal government’s representative on FSANZ and the food in representative order. I would ask the honourable member to, one, get her facts straight, two, if she is going to enter completely different debates do it through the appropriate measures of the house, and, three, return to the bill.

Ms BRITNELL: Thank you for your comments. They do not change what I was saying. The minister made a point, as the Minister for Agriculture, and you had the opportunity to support that and you did not—as the Minister for Health and the Minister for Agriculture. That is very disappointing, and I will return to the bill by saying that the new Minister for Agriculture has the opportunity to support farmers, not to actually spin stories to try and convince farmers who have been on this journey, like me, since the early 2000s, have long memories and know for a fact that it was the Labor government who issued licences. It was the minister from 2006, the member for Northcote’s father, who was the energy minister responsible for issuing licences and it will be the members from the city who will get up and carry on about how they are looking after farmers.

Well, I am sorry, but you are looking at someone who sat around the table, who heard the rhetoric, who is not fooled and still knows that people like Basil Ryan continue to this today farming, knowing full well the story. Paul Mumford, the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president, was sitting around the table with me then, Daryl Howie—I could go on—and John Kealy, they are all still there and they remember, so this is not fooling anyone. This is not fooling anyone. Labor have a poor track record, particularly in the environmental area and this one in particular, so do not just keep the spin up, because, guess what, the community are seeing through it. I think the member for Gippsland South raised the point about the fact that we thought spin through the memes that we are seeing—Shane Warne could spin, but goodness me, we are seeing a Premier right now spin, and the community is seeing straight through it.

I will conclude by reiterating the words of the member for Warrandyte, the shadow minister for this portfolio, and they are that there is a long track record of Labor actually trying to pull the wool over farmers’ eyes—not us.