Monday, 10 September 2012
Private Members' Business
National Landcare week
I am delighted to speak in support of the member for Gippsland's motion in relation to Landcare and the contribution of our farmers and Landcare groups right around this country to practical measures to improve our environment, to reduce salinity, to restore riparian areas and to restore other forms of riverbank and coastal areas in need of protection. I want to deal with this motion in there simple stages: firstly, to look at the issue of Landcare; secondly, to look at our reforms; and thirdly, to acknowledge the contributions.
In terms of Landcare, this is a great program, a great part of Australia. The national Landcare symbol of the caring hands is understood and recognised widely. On that front there are three different arms that come together. Firstly, we have Landcare Australia which is the custodian of the intellectual property and the organisation. I have met with them and they do a tremendous job in being an advocate, a promoter, a source of education and training within the Landcare network. Secondly, there is the Landcare Advisory Council assisting the minister and the government. Again, they do good work, but sadly many of their recommendations have been ignored or avoided by the government. Thirdly, the Landcare networks represent the local Landcare groups. This is the heart of Landcare in the Australian model.
These groups operate right around the country. I have been with farmers in the Otway ranges, on the Mornington Peninsula and in Gippsland. I have been with Landcare groups up and down the coast of New South Wales, Queensland and, in particular, inland in both of those states. Similarly, I have seen the contribution of these groups in South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.
They are the frontline of the Landcare movement. They operate on the smell of an oily rag on many occasions. They operate as volunteers and wherever possible they get some assistance.
That brings me to the reforms that these groups have talked about. There are three reforms to Landcare which, as a coalition, we would undertake. The first is simplification. The simplification of Landcare is essential. What Landcare coordinators and Landcare volunteers have complained about to me is very clear. They have said that they are becoming bureaucrats. They want to be on the ground doing practical work to implement Landcare programs. They are finding that they are overwhelmed with paperwork and with layers of bureaucracy which are making it almost impossible for them to do their job. Our approach will be very clear. We will radically simplify the Landcare bureaucracy. We want to make it short, simple and something which is only required on an intermittent basis, not on a permanent, heavy, grinding basis. Our pledge and our commitment to the Landcare groups and the Landcare networks of Australia is that we will radically simplify the paperwork.
The second of the reforms we want to make is all about local funding. We will make the overwhelming bulk of funding directed through the NRMs to local groups. We do not want to see a massive bureaucratic network where the money is ripped away and sent to state organisations and bureaucracies. As the previous coalition speaker mentioned, according to an investigation by the Canberra Times, more than 50 per cent of the funds announced by the federal agricultural minister, Joe Ludwig, in 2010, went to state government departments, government agencies, statutory authorities and federal and state government grant administration partnerships. We want to make it simple and we want to make it local.
The third thing we want to do is make it long term. We will make long-term agreements with landholders whether it is three, four or five years.
That then brings me to my final comment. All of this is about allowing Landcare networks and Landcare groups to do what they do best and that is improve the land, care for the country, make the changes, and we will allow them to do that.