Deniliquin’s Perin Davey has defended the rice industry in her maiden speech to the Australian Senate.
Senator Davey covered a vast array of topics, including The Nationals’ history and contribution to the nation, agriculture, mining, regional issues and family.
She said she was “here to be a champion for all our agriculture industries - I support them all and I support the businesses that rely on them”.
On rice, Senator Davey said, “in Australia, production of crops like cotton and rice is leading the world in terms of crop yield per megalitre of water used. Yet there are those in Australia, and indeed in this place, calling for us to stop producing these crops; these crops that are actually perfectly suited to the Australian variable environment, these crops that can be turned off and on, depending on water availability.
“Both of these commodity groups have long-term research and development programs in Australia, and now as a nation we are exporting our smarts as well as our products.
“We can’t stop growing these crops or producing these commodities because, if we do, who will feed the 40 million-plus people around the world every day who eat Australian rice.”
Supporting the dairy and cotton industries, Senator Davey asked: “Who will produce the fresh milk that we enjoy on our cereals and who will produce the natural fibres that we like to wear?”
She said there had never been a time when the relevance of The Nationals was more important.
“The Nationals are relevant at a time when our regional industries - agriculture, irrigation, mining and resources - are increasingly under attack,” Senator Davey told the Senate.
She spoke about having a vested interest in numerous areas.
“I am a mother, and therefore I have a vested interest in making sure my children, and all of our children, have access to quality education regardless of where they live.
“I’ve been an employee and an employer, so I have a vested interest in ensuring that businesses have access to adequate telecommunications and can operate without excessive red tape, and I have a vested interest in making sure our tax regime is fair.
“As a future retiree, I have a vested interest in protecting our superannuation. As a driver, I’ve got a vested interest in making sure regional roads are safe.
“As the wife of an irrigator and as someone who worked in the irrigation industry I have a vested interest in making sure we get stability back in our water policy so that irrigators and other water users, including industries, towns and the environment, understand the parameters under which they’re operating and we get the balance right.
“As the wife of a farmer, I have a vested interest in making sure both corporate and private agriculture have a strong future so anyone who wants to work in the business, not just those lucky enough to inherit or lucky enough to own shares, has a career pathway.
“And as someone living on the land, I have a vested interest in our environment, because I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing my pelican return every year to Billabong Creek.
“I have a vested interest in making sure we get the economic, environmental and social balance right when we make public policy.
“It is important to me that our regional industries are supported by infrastructure, services and good government policy that encourages investment, because without investment we can’t grow and we would fail to live up to the potential of our regions.”
Senator Davey said her pathway to politics had “not been planned”, explaining her background included 15 years in the Army Reserve, three years working on safaris in Botswana, a stint as a regional reporter for a country newspaper, and time in Queensland driving a school bus, cooking for station hands and running the Comet River trivia championship.
“I also spent some time back here in Canberra, working for an international PR firm. Through all of that, I had no idea that this is where I would end up. “Rather, I have done all of that because I look for opportunities and I accept the risks and rewards that they present, and I have arrived here because I took advantage of an opportunity - that now I have a massive responsibility to ensure I don’t waste,” Senator Davey said.