AGRICULTURE and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce has attacked the Labor party’s agricultural standing and described leader Bill Shorten’s analogy of the National party’s subservience to the Liberals as a “dopey undergraduate joke”.
Mr Shorten slammed the Nationals during the ALP’s National Country Forum at Casino in the NSW Northern Rivers region last weekend, comparing them to faithful working dogs beholden to the Liberal party.
“There’s the Liberals, in their Rodd and Gunn vests, jumper knotted around their shoulders just like the old boarding-school days, driving the ute,” he said.
“And there’s Warren and Barnaby, tied up in the tray at the back, like Pistol and Boo (Johnny Depp’s pet dogs).
“Sure, every so often the Liberals look in the rear view mirror to make sure the Nats are still there.”
Mr Shorten also sought to expose alleged divisions over the National party’s leadership following Malcolm Turnbull’s successful challenge to Tony Abbott.
But Mr Joyce said the ALP leader had left the regional country caucus meeting without delivering any policies that benefit Australian farmers.
“One would expect that at a country caucus he might have something to say about agricultural policy but he had none,” he said.
“We could not even get an affirmed view from Mr Shorten in northern NSW that he’d support the China Free Trade Agreement.
“He had the capacity to offer so much and ended up offering nothing at all except some dopey undergraduate joke.
“But the National party is happy to stand behind what we’ve been doing and the fact that we’ve doubled the price of cattle, taken sheep to record prices and opened new export markets.
“The philosophy of what we deliver in the National party is an unambiguous voice for regional Australia that’s not compromised by the wishes of inner suburban seats such as the one held by Anthony Albanese.”
Mr Joyce said he watched Mr Shorten’s conference speech via an internet video and was not impressed.
“To be honest, he reminded me of the guy who kept hanging around the girlfriends’ parents after the girlfriend left,” he said.
“Let’s face it, the train has left for Mr Shorten (and) he’s floundering because against Mr Turnbull he hasn’t got a chance of winning.”
Mr Joyce said the Labor party’s criticism of the Nationals was inconsistent and portrayed them as “oscillating between being tyrannical people who determined the direction of government, as happened with our Coalition agreement, to being not strong enough”.
“It amazes me how on consecutive days we can be accused of two different things; in being too demanding and determining where the government goes and the next day we’re apparently not demanding enough,” he said.
“The biggest thing that’s happened in the Labor party so far is that their outraged that water policy would be handed over to a National party minister - that’s what Mr Shorten’s own agriculture minister said.
“So in that instance, he’s saying the National party has too much force and then a week later Mr Shorten’s up in northern NSW saying we haven’t got enough influence.
“Well I wish they’d make up their minds and get their lines consistent before they go on the public record.”
Mr Joyce also responded to the ALP holding the Country Forum in the Page electorate held by National Party MP Kevin Hogan, to promote former representative Janelle Saffin who has been pre-selected to contest the seat again for Labor at the next federal election.
“Janelle Saffin hates the live export trade and (Victorian Labor MP) Kelvin Thomson was their Parliamentary Secretary for Trade in the previous parliament and he also wanted to ban the live export trade,” Mr Joyce said.
“One of the greatest reasons we’re getting the prices we’re getting now for cattle is because of the live export trade.
“But Labor is promoting people who, if their policy ideals were to come to the fore again, would mean a lesser return at the farm gate than what we’re currently getting.”
Mr Joyce also attacked the ALP’s plans to return water policy to the environment ministry, if they win the next federal poll.
“Here are three of Labor’s policies for agriculture,” he said.
“They will take water back out of agriculture and put it back into environment because they actually care about the environment and not about agriculture,” he said.
“They will increase Foreign Investment Review board’s limit from $15 million under the Coalition to $1000 million under them.
“That would mean a person from overseas could buy $1000 million worth of land in the north of the seat of Page on one day under Labor and wouldn’t have to go to FIRB and they could come back the next day and buy $1000m worth of land in the south of the seat of Page and not have to go to the FIRB.
“Then on subsequent days they could buy $1 billion worth of land to the east and $1 billion to the west without having to go to the FIRB.
“And then you’d have to call into question the Labor party’s resilience in being able to stand up to the left on issues like banning the live cattle trade.
“Now is that the party that’s truly there to represent country Australia?
“Or is that the party that’s thinking, ‘I just need to get a couple of country seats so I can get myself into power to serve urban Australia’.”