After meeting with many farmers in our region over the Christmas break, I've been back in Parliament this week and have been focusing on stressing to the Government that drought and water need to continue to be major topics, for very obvious reasons.
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In 2020, I'd like to see the Government stop being so reactive and start showing a bit of initiative. Too many times now they've failed to deliver without me speaking out on behalf of the farmers and regional communities; it seems I need to raise our very real issues time and time again before the sit up and pay attention.
Even then, when they finally act and deliver some of our taxpayer money back to our drought stricken communities, they have a track record of being too unorganised enough to initiate anything properly.
What the government need to know - and I will continue to remind them of until they tire of hearing it - is that the drought is essentially a natural disaster. We need a level of response from state and federal governments that is commensurate to the seriousness of the problem, including the flow-on effects it has on small businesses and therefore families.
I will be continuing to fight for rural and regional businesses to help keep locals employed and our regional economy strong.
Following concerns aired by members of the community and the Fire Brigade Employees Union about the recent downgrade in response capability by Fire and Rescue NSW at Peak Hill, reportedly due to an inability to recruit firefighters, I questioned the Minister for Police and Emergency Services earlier this week about this decision.
I would like to know the extent of efforts made to recruit people to fill these essential frontline emergency service positions. I'm looking forward to the Minister's response.
The decline of government services here in rural and regional appears to continue. Just look at what's happened here with health.
Many people may shrug their shoulders and accept it, but I'm here to remind this city-centric state government of their obligations to provide the requisite capability to respond to emergencies and that, quite simply, we pay our taxes and levees for these services - the same as our city cousins do.
As we all know after the event, ScoMo visited the Central West last week and a few people wondered why I wasn't in attendance. The answer for those that have been asking is, I wasn't invited! While the PM met with a select few, I was out on the ground in barren paddocks listening to the farmers about what they're having to contend with.
I heard from one farmer who was wondering how much further he could go in increasing debt to keep feeding his stock and put food on his own table, and his son who left a trade to help his father on the family property.
This farmer's son went on to say that there is no future in farming and has urged his father to sell rather than carry on a family farming tradition and gamble on whether he could financially support his own family in the future.
The PM and his political ilk in State Government don't really listen and they just don't seem to care. Their solution is to bury their heads in the sand and hope it rains. They're not thinking about the next generation of farmer walking off the land and selling up.
I would say "food for thought", but there'll be no food for anything at this rate.
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