21 July 2004

The Nationals' Member for Lismore, Thomas George, today slammed Labor Minister Ian Macdonald for refusing to meet with him and industry groups affected by the proposed Department of Primary Industries restructure.

"Since early July I have followed protocol in trying to secure an appointment with the Minister to meet with a deputation of industry representatives including Northern Cooperative Meat Company Ltd, Norco Cooperative Pty Ltd, Grain and Soya Bean Growers and myself to voice our concerns for the future of agriculture in coastal NSW," Mr George said.

"The Northern Rivers Region, agricultural industries, employees and the public should have the right to present their concerns to any Minister regarding changes to frontline services which could have major ramifications on their livelihoods.

"Labor's "restructure" involves cutting of $37 million from the next two year's primary industries budgets, rising to $58 million in 2006-2007 and includes the proposed closure of 17 agriculture facilities, including the Grafton Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, the Lismore Chemical Residues Laboratory, the Duck Creek Field Station and the Dairy Research functions at the Wollongbar Agricultural Institute.

"As Member for Lismore, I am sick and tired of the Labor Government's attitude to this region. In recent times Labor has withdrawn frontline services such as the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail service, cut funding to the Casino and Lismore Business Enterprise Centres and is planning to restructure the Department of Primary Industries.

"I would like to remind Minister Macdonald that the above changes and job losses would come on the top of the recent loss of 13 jobs at Wollongbar and Lismore. Where is this going to stop?

"This region deserves the respect of being afforded the opportunity for a delegation to meet with the Minister to present the region's case and not just accept an ill-thought out and uninformed decision made by an out-of-touch Labor Government.

"Here we have a Government Minister with a closed mind, playing politics by refusing to discuss the matter. Minister Macdonald contends that a meeting organised by Country Labor last week has made him aware of industry concerns.

"While the Minister is stating these issues have already been discussed, he is completely oblivious to the severe impact the proposed changes to the local Research Stations will have on the lives of farmers, employees, our community and the future of agriculture in our area.

"If he was aware of the true impacts his proposal will inflict on country communities, he would reverse it immediately. Minister Macdonald is dodging his responsibilities to become informed about the detrimental effects such cutbacks would wreak.

"With Federal Labor Leader, Mark Latham, in the region tomorrow I implore him to convince his Labor colleagues in NSW to change their minds. Based on the Carr Labor Government's form in NSW imagine if Labor is elected Federally.

"In my five years of being the local Member, I have never been refused an appointment with any Minister. It is an insult to the primary producers of this region, who play a vital part in primary industries in this State and Australia, to be snubbed by any Minister let alone the Minister who supposedly represents their industry.

"Research plays a critical role in driving the agricultural industry forward and here we have a Minister not interested in discussing the matter.

"So much for the Minister's saying that `..nothing had been decided'. By refusing to meet my delegation the Minister is signalling he has made up his mind and will not listen to rural communities who are in the best position to inform him of the dire consequences his proposal will have," Mr George said.

Contact Details:

Office: 55 Carrington Street  LISMORE
Postal: PO Box 52  LISMORE  NSW  2480
Telephone: 1800 336 166 or 02 6621 3624
Facsimile: 02 6622 1403  Email:

Authorised by Thomas George MP. Funded using Parliamentary entitlements.