“Our communities will know who it was who had their back. And it is The National Party”

NSW Nationals

Deputy Nationals’ Leader, Senator Perin Davey, has addressed the Party’s Federal Conference. This is what she said.

Thank you, Kay. Thank you, everyone. Thank you all for attending, taking the time out to be here. I do want to thank Lincoln and the team because putting on these conferences is no small effort. I also want to thank the team for organising yesterday, we had a corporate observers programme. I want to thank all my federal colleagues who attended. We were flat out all day, it was really well attended. Again, these things don’t just happen, a lot of organisation, but a really good opportunity not just to raise funds for our party, but for us to listen to those corporate interests, so that we can be better informed and represent your interests better.

The introductory song, the voice of Australia, what a great song. I remember when the first time that was recorded, it’s a really good song. And it’s so crucial at the moment, because we’re all talking about a voice at the moment. But we, this party, over 100 years ago, realised a really crucial voice that was not being heard in the halls of power. And that was the voice of the regions, all regional people, of all backgrounds, and all heritage were not being heard. So we got together, we didn’t call for a change to the constitution, we took action. We put our hands up, and we got people elected. Just as there are currently 11 Indigenous Members of Parliament. And they are doing great things from across the board we have wonderful Jacinta, who I’m so proud to have in our party room. And we’ve got on the other end of the political spectrum, we’ve got Lidia Thorpe. And can I just say she is also representing her constituents, very, very passionately and very well. And that that is what democracy is about. That is about getting your voice heard in the halls of power. We don’t need to change the constitution. We just need good passionate people to put their hands up, to listen to their constituencies, and to come to Parliament, to be elected to come to Parliament and to passionately debate and be heard. That’s the voices we want. That’s the important thing.

And that is what this party does so well for regional people, for the 9 million people who choose not to live in a capital city. And we do it well and we bat above. We really do bat above and at the moment we are seeing with this government, it is abundantly clear, their disdain for the regions. They have cut regional funding and regional programmes across the board. In virtually every policy domain, the Labor government has cut funding from infrastructure, from health; they changed the policy distribution priority areas, which meant that regional areas could recruit foreign trained doctors and have them come to the regions but Labor’s changed that and now, places like Deniliquin are competing against peri-urban areas around Melbourne, Frankston and Western Sydney. We’ve heard already doctors going from Maitland to Newcastle. So we are losing doctors in the regions because of Labor’s policy changes. And what we are also seeing this government – this government who stood and said they will be the government of integrity and transparency – is doing anything but. They are forcing people to sign nondisclosure agreements just so they can discuss areas of policy change, whether it be in arts, and communications, health or pharmacy, or in my critical areas of emergency management and water. The lack of transparency, the opacity has just grown. And what we are observing is this government is they had 10 years to prepare for government. But they didn’t do it. They thought of ideas. There’s many thought bubbles, but they did not turn their attention at all to implementation. They’re finding it very difficult in government.

While my colleague Senator Murray Watt from Queensland who has the emergency management portfolio was very, very quick in opposition to lay blame at the feet of the government of the day for natural disasters and our response. Our response when Bridget McKenzie was Minister for Emergency Management, that saw funding go out the door within 72 hours of the Lismore floods. And what are we seeing from this government? From Murray, from my friend Murray Watt? We are seeing delay, procrastination, we are seeing programmes that we had actually put in place, now being held up by bureaucracy and red tape. While we diligently secured funding for flood mitigation efforts in the Northern Rivers, we had it in the budget, we initiated the programmes to protect the vulnerable communities, the new Labor Government has been all talk no action. The 150 million that we quarantined for Northern Rivers flood mitigation and risk reduction, still has not been spent, even though the financial year it was allocated to is well behind us now. Critical projects like the repair of town levees and pump upgrades are stuck in limbo due to the withholding and the delay of funds. The house buyback programme has languished and we are not seeing equity. We are not seeing, despite our leader David Littleproud, asking Albo direct, asking the Prime Minister directly in the chamber whether they would support Central Western New South Wales and provide an equitable, resilient homes package for Central Western New South Wales. And the Prime Minister said he would work with us, he would get it done. Nothing, nothing but delay.

And tragically, we are also seeing where this government’s priority lies when it comes to the crucial area of water management and water reform. And my apologies to my Western Australian, Northern Territory, friends and colleagues, but the Murray Darling Basin is such an important area. And what we’ve seen from this government is not even putting the environment first and this is the tragedy. They are putting a number first. They are putting an election promise above the environment and above the communities and above our agricultural production. Tanya Plibersek at our first meeting, said to me, “I have been given an election commitment to deliver 450 Gigalitres, and I will do it, I will not fail.” And, I said but that four hundred, you know, far be it for me to actually read the legislation, I said that 450, it’s not set in stone. There are levers there are swings and roundabouts and there are considerations. And there is a socio-economic neutrality test that the Labor Government wrote into that piece of legislation. And she just blanked me, because she does not care. To Tanya Plibersek, her career is more important than all of our jobs. Than all of our communities in the basin. She had the audacity to announce the Murray Darling Basin reforms on the banks of the Torrens River in Adelaide. That’s what she thinks about our regional communities.

So it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard. But I am standing up for the communities of Victoria, of New South Wales, of Queensland ,and South Australia as well. Because make no mistake, this water reform, this water recovery, will hurt South Australian industries as well. When the South Australian Labor Water Minister stands up and says it’s okay, they’ll just buy the water from the upstream states. Well that might be true. But I can promise you South Australian almond growers and South Australian grape growers are very dependent on the water market. And if you buy 450 Gigalitres out of the water market, I don’t care which state it comes from, it will impact the market, because you are taking away supply without addressing demand.

So I will be fighting, and I don’t know if I’ll win. But one thing is for sure, our communities will know who it was who had their back. And it is The National Party. It is The National Party that is standing up for regional communities right across this nation, and we will continue to do so. I’m very proud of our parliamentary team. I’m very proud of all of the people who put us there, and I thank you all. And I’m very proud to work with our leader David Littleproud, each and every day as we stand up for regional areas. Thanks.

/Public Release. View in full here.