TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is for the Minister for Planning.
Farming families in regional and rural Victoria have been faced with various
challenges over recent years, ranging from drought and climate change to
increasingly competitive overseas markets. I ask the minister to inform this
house how this year’s budget responds to the planning challenges faced by the
farming and agricultural sector.
J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) — I welcome the member’s interest in
this issue, particularly because she represents a significant part of regional
Victoria and has a particular interest in these matters.
The 2008 announcement more recently around the $205 million
Future Farms strategy was a very significant announcement by the Premier and the
Minister for Agriculture because it shows this government’s commitment to rural
and regional Victoria. We know that stands in stark contrast to former
governments. There were former governments which closed 178 country schools and
it was a former government which closed 12 country hospitals and 6 country rail
lines. This government believes in regional and rural Victoria and is committed
to it. We know there are other parties which believe in a lot of things, but we
also know they do not believe in planning. We believe in planning and in
committing to that planning and ensuring that we support not only the growth of
Melbourne but planning for rural and regional Victoria.
As part of that we worked very closely with local governments
in regional and rural Victoria to ensure that, when we made the translation of
rural zones to farming zones, that complemented the need for productive farming
land in rural Victoria. It is important because we have heard from The Nationals
today about their enthusiasm for the vegetable industry. We have an enthusiasm
for that because we want to maintain productive agricultural land. There have
been issues no doubt with some of those local governments about how they made or
failed to make that translation, so we needed to make that translation on their
As part of the Future Farms announcement, we
have committed $3.79 million over four years. It has been allocated to
formulating a regional strategic planning group to work with local government
and local communities to make sure that we can complement the needs of farmers,
but also complement the needs of farmers in difficult times because in difficult
times some of those farmers look to other uses for their farms.
The great risk is that we may lose productive farming land
forever through farmers suddenly wanting to take the opportunity to develop
their land for uses other than productive farming.
We have to acknowledge and work with local communities to find
complementary uses for the farms so farmers not only maintain their productive
farming land and the virtues of that but also find other streams of income if
they need to do that in a complementary way to the needs of not only the
individual farmer and the local community but also more broadly all of Victoria
and the productivity that needs to take place in relation to farming and
I look towards The Nationals as I say this, because this is a
question I might have expected from The Nationals, but it has not been
forthcoming. Like the Liberal Party, it does not seem to have a plan around
We know that the opposition is divisive and exclusive. We are a
party of unity and inclusion. We practise unity and inclusion in partnerships,
but we know other parties in this chamber not only prescribe division; they
practise division as well.
I look forward to working with local communities, particularly
in relation to strategic land use — —
Mr Guy — I don’t think Victorians can take much more of you
Hon. J. M. MADDEN — I take up Mr Guy’s interjection and look
forward to his being the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber in the near
The PRESIDENT — Order! The minister may well want to take up
the interjection, but is does not impress me. Earlier in the day I alerted all
ministers to the rules about debating answers. Members know the rules covering
answers during question time. I ask that they adhere to those rules. They should
try to control their rage just for a moment and get on with it.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN — We will work very closely with local
communities in rural and regional Victoria and local government to make sure
that we add value to what productive land can and will do in the future and to
assist farmers through this strategic working group and through the funding we
have allocated to make sure that we continue not only to maintain the productive
agricultural land use for the longer term but also to complement the existence
of farmers on that farming land going into the future. That will not only mean
that they can be productive in terms of their farming but ensure that rural and
regional Victoria is an even better place to live, work and raise a family.