Australians living in the regions have benefited from millions of dollars in desperately needed new infrastructure and advocacy for their needs at the highest levels of government thanks to News Corp Australia’s agenda-setting Bush Summit.
Now in it’s fourth year, and running nationally for the first time, the Bush Summit has created tangible change across the bush, including the establishment of the Rural Advisory Panel which provides `advice to the government from the people on the ground and not bureaucrats in the city.
The event has also protected the livelihoods of farming communities by pushing governments to introduce the ‘right to farm’ legislation to keep activists off farms.
The summit series launches today in Tamworth NSW before hitting the road for events in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia next week.
Watch live in the video player above as the 2023 Bush Summit unfolds.
PM MEETS PROTESTERS
Greeted by protesters outside the Bush Summit, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has met with some of the protesters in a private room after his address, and Q&A with The Daily Telegraph editor Ben English.
James Golden, chairman of the apolitical Renewable and Transmission Line Action Network (RAT: AND), said he was representing angry farmers from far North Queensland down to Tasmania.
“I would like to compliment the Prime Minister for speaking to us for 25 minutes,” he said. “But it is not enough for us to be heard yet.”
The farmers are unhappy that foreign owned companies are looking to put thousands of hectares of solar panels and wind turbines on prime agricultural land.
“The Prime Minister has promised to give us a seat at the table,” Mr Gooden said. “He was very receptive to us calling for a senate inquiry into this.”
Farmer John Peatfield was also in the meeting and told the Prime Minister that farmers were unhappy with the actions of foreign owned companies putting in solar panels and wind turbines.
VOICE, HERITAGE LAWS ‘DIVIDE US’: RINEHART
Billionaire businesswoman Gina Rinehart has called on the government to invest in primary industries across the region as she welcomed the Western Australian government’s decision to abandon controversial heritage laws.
“(It was) an act that placed burdens on the backs of West Australians, burdens that many would not have been able to carry,” she said.
She added the prospect of national heritage laws was a threat until it was “dead, buried and cremated”.’
“It is a threat of a risk of bureaucratic … regulation over the heads of anyone in regional Australia.”
Ms Rinehart’s speech was delivered to the Bush Summit by Hancock Prospecting chief executive Adam Giles, on behalf of Ms Rinehart.
He likened an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to cultural heritage laws — saying they are designed to divide us, and said the government’s pursuit of the Voice as an “oxymoron”.
“They are putting transmission towers in a sacred site … so on one hand we are talking about the Voice and Indigenous decision making. To be putting transmission lines through sacred sites, it’s an oxymoron.
“I think we should march forward as a population together and not have these divisive things that upset us.”
He called for the government to work with Aboriginal sacred sites to ensure they can be protected.
GROWING CITY-BUSH DIVIDE: RINEHART
Ms Rinehart also called for war veterans, pensioners and students to be allowed to work as much as they want without “onerous” hours restrictions.
“(We need to focus on) deleting the upper limit on work hours so that our war veterans, our pensioners, and our university students could all work as long as they wanted.”
Ms Rinehart said “huge and unnecessary large intakes of migrants” were to blame for a growing city and bush divide because they did not have a connection to the bush.
She slammed the ballooning public service workforce, arguing not enough done to invest in boots on the ground in regional Australia.
Mr Giles also spoke up against the risk of the energy transition – including transmission lines and wind turbines – on primarily agricultural land.
“You can’t be in a situation where Australia is going to destroy all our green pastures … so you can supply power to people living in a concrete jungle in the city,” he said.
To applause, he said the agriculture industry was shouldering the responsibility of climate change and reaching net zero.
“If you’ve got people in the cities creating all that carbon, why are you coming out to my farm and disturbing my farm?” he said.
“The best people who can manage their farms are the farmers themselves … farmers on the ground know their country.”
‘NEED TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT’: PM ON THE VOICE
Mr Albanese has talked about The Voice, saying something had to change as only four out of 19 Closing The Gap targets are being met.
“All of these stats … show we need to do something different,” he said.
“There’s no question that not every Indigenous person has the same position (on The Voice),” he said.
“(But this is) elected by Indigenous people themselves … a body elected by Indigenous people of Indigenous people to make representations to government.”
He added The Voice would result in an elected body of Indigenous peoples who would advise the federal government
“The power of the voice is just the power of its ideas … we are the only former colony on earth which does not recognise first peoples.”
PM BRACED FOR NATURAL DISASTER ‘PERFECT STORM’
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in a Q and A with Daily Telegraph editor Ben English, has talked of the natural disasters which Australia has to brace for yet again.
“It’s a perfect storm because you’ve had good weather conditions in terms of rain has meant that you’ve got that undergrowth (which) has come back. But if you combine that then with a summer which is hot and dry, they’re quite dangerous conditions,” he said.
He said the federal emergency ministers would soon meet with state ministers to discuss how emergency services across Australia could best prepare for this year’s predicted bushfire season.
Mr Albanese, who was met with a wall of protesters out the front of the Bush Summit event, acknowledged rural communities – worried about the transition to renewable energy and wind farms and transmission lines – needed to be better consulted.
“We need to always try to do our best, whether it’s a private sector taking action or government, to consult with people, because you have better outcomes,” he said.
“Change is difficult … but we need to make sure the community is consulted appropriately.”
PM ON CHINA: ‘CO-OPERATE WHERE WE CAN’
Mr Albanese also added Australia has been added to China’s list of preferred destinations – meaning “tourists will be coming back”, which he said previously contributed $1b annually to the Aussie economy.
The Prime Minister said while China dropping tariffs on Aussie barley was welcomed, his government would not compromise its values for other economic benefits.
“We’re not about to change our values, we’re not about to change our support for human rights,” he said.
“I want more engagement between China and the United States. The truth is there is the risk of conflict in our region … the consequences of that would be enormous.
“A war in our region would have a very significant impact on every Australian.”
He said Australia’s approach to China is “co-operate where we can, disagree where we must”.
The Prime Minister also revealed at Bush Summit he would go to India for G20 and Jakarta for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
PM DETAILS $38M DROUGHT PACKAGE
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese kicked off his address to the summit with a statement on Australian agriculture’s importance to the economy as well as his government’s stance on foreign diplomacy.
He said China dropping tariffs on Aussie barley in the past week would reopen a market worth $900m to Aussie barley growers.
“Of course there are many complexities involved in the decisions of a foreign government, even one as welcome as this,” the Prime Minister said.
“But for our part, my Government is working hard to repair and maintain Australia’s relations with our friends, neighbours and trading partners.
“What it doesn’t mean is saying yes to everything. Our approach to China offers a solid template – co-operating where we can, disagreeing where we must, and always engaging in our national interest.
“We can have respectful dialogue without changing any of our fundamental positions – and still make progress.”
Mr Albanese also thanked The Telegraph and its editor Ben English for its founding, and continued support, of rural Australia through the summit.
“The Bush Summit is a rock solid part of my diary,” he said, adding he had been to every event since it started in 2019.
Detailing his $38m federal package to help droughtproof the bush, Mr Albanese said his government was taking every step they could to combat drought.
“We know, that with the right approaches farmers can keep their farms more productive for longer, keep feed in their paddocks for longer and moisture in their soils for longer,” he said.
“We know you’re taking every step you can to ward off the impacts of drought, and this Government will be there with you.”
BETTER CONNECTIVITY VITAL: ALBANESE
Mr Albanese also made the major call that connectivity in the bush had to be bettered, as future ways of working meant “we are reducing the need for so many of us to be concentrated in a handful of big cities”.
“We must improve connectivity, whether it’s with better roads, better rail or better internet,” he said.
“Too many businesses in regional Australia continue to be held back by broadband which is neither fast enough, reliable enough nor good enough.
“Nothing has the power to knock the tyranny of distance out of the equation like world-class communications technology.
“As well as removing a major handbrake on growth and jobs-creation, it can play a vital role in healthcare, education, and help individuals feel more connected.”
He also flagged the need for better tertiary education in the bush – saying 20 more study hubs would be created under his government.
“Another important component in building a better, stronger regional Australia is the creation of more regional university hubs,” he said.
“We want more young Australians to have the chance to go to university. At present, postcode is a significant barrier for young people getting that chance. The opportunities that are available to you in life should not be dictated by your address.”
DECISION MAKERS MUST ‘FACE THE MUSIC’
Daily Telegraph editor Ben English has promised the 2023 Bush Summit will see Australia’s decision-makers held to account, with issues such as drought, health worker shortages, rural crime and housing shortages to be at the forefront of the discussion with the country’s top politicians.
“In the home of country music, we are going to make our decision makers from the Prime Minister down, face the music,” Mr English said.
“And that’s entirely how it should be. It’s what makes the Bush Summit so special. We come to the Bush to hear, to listen and to grill the high and mighty.”
He said the first Bush Summit in 2019 occurred when the bush was broken by drought, with the Bush Summit since then pursuing a plethora of issues and opportunities in regional Australia.
“Since the grim backdrop to our first Bush Summit, the bush has been a story of revival. Three years of La Niña have delivered the bountiful arc of our never-ending climatic cycle,” he said.
“But as our front page story revealed yesterday, a new dry is looming. That is why this year’s Bush Summit is so critical. We must again use this platform, when everyone from the Prime Minister and the Premier gather to face their bush constituents, to ensure everything possible is being done to help our farmers get through another drought.”
“At the same time, regional towns across the nation are groaning from shortages of housing, and critical front line workers. Many still suffer from appalling standards of connectivity. The sick still have to travel for hours to get the critical medical attention they need. Thousands of young children can’t get into child care. And crime in some parts is on the rise and terrorising communities. As grim as they are, we need to hear about, and report on these problems.”
‘RENEWABLES RUINING BUSH’: FARMERS PROTEST
More than 100 angry farmers protesting against the rush to renewable energy across their land waved placards and chanted outside the Bush Summit.
Local MP and former deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the “apolitical” group had pulled together thousands of landholders from 240 groups stretching from Queensland to Tasmania.
“Renewables are not a solution, they are ruining the bush,” Mr Joyce said.
The Summit is being attended by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and NSW Premier Chris Minns.`
“I would love Mr Albanese to come out and address these people, but he won’t,” Mr Joyce said.
“So the only way they can have a voice is to protest like this,” Mr Joyce said. “It won’t stop here.”
He vowed to take the protesters to the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra to highlight how renewables were turning agricultural land into “industrial landscapes”.
Emma Jeffrey from Walcha said the placement of wind turbines and solar panels on prime farming land was “not cheap and not safe”.
“People in the cities just need to look at their power bills and they will see putting renewables into the grid is not making them cheaper.
“We don’t want them on prime agricultural land, they stop us from fertilising the land and managing bush fires,” she said.
POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHTS, NATIONAL FOCUS
As the 2023 Bush Summit kicked off in Tamworth at 9am, News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller welcomed a bumper crowd including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, federal Opposition leader Peter Dutton, NSW Premier Chris Minns and deputy Prue Car, and NSW Opposition leader Mark Speakman.
Mr Miller highlighted the expanding reach of the Bush Summit, which in 2023 has gone national with a countrywide focus.
“By broadening the scope, national issues, as well as local ones can now be addressed, discussed, and when needed, solutions found,” he said.
“The fact that the current Prime Minister has attended every Bush Summit also speaks to his commitment to the people of the bush.”
$38m TO PROTECT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
Drought-resistant crops, super soils, and feed for cattle that can help farms stay “ahead of the curve” when the next big dry strikes will be funded under a $38m investment unveiled today at News Corp Australia’s National Bush Summit.
Anthony Albanese has announced grants for six long-term trials of drought-resilient farming practices when he visits Tamworth to deliver the keynote address for the summit series.
The Prime Minister said the funds from the $5bn Future Drought Fund would support a range of innovative research projects designed to equip farmers long term for a changing climate.
“This investment will build a long-term evidence base to accelerate the adoption of best practices across the agricultural sector,” Mr Albanese said.
“It will provide farmers with the confidence to invest in technologies and practices that have been proven across different landscapes and production conditions.”
About $8m will go to Flinders University to lead research into the climate resilience of cropping, livestock and mixed farms, while $7.99m will help Deakin University investigate how diversity in pastures could lead to 365 days of feed production in southern grazing areas.
Research into drought-resilient broadacre grains and grazing conducted by the University of Melbourne on trial sites in Victoria and Tasmania will receive $7.2m.
The Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils will receive $3.94m to evaluate drought resilience in farming systems and soils at sites in Western Australia, NSW and Victoria.
About $6.23m of funds will go a Charles Sturt University-led consortium investigating cropping and livestock in response to “seasonal variation”, with trials to be undertaken across multiple sites in NSW.
Originally published as Bush Summit 2023 Live coverage: PM pledges $38m to help farmers