News National MPs fight for rural affection

MPs fight for rural affection

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If you believe Labor, they are the party for farmers and rural Australia.

If you believe the government, that’s a complete joke.

Parliament took a country tone on Thursday when Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon brought on debate about the budget’s impact on regional Australia.

He was concerned about the fuel excise hike’s impact on rural residents, which he says will go down as the Abbott government’s “worst broken promise”.

Mr Fitzgibbon is behind Labor’s new “country caucus” made up of regional MPs and senators who will influence party policy on rural issues.

Talkback caller: Barnaby Joyce
Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

Labor has long been a champion of the bush, given it was partly born out of the shearing sheds of rural Queensland, Mr Fitzgibbon told AAP.

“Country Labor has been successful in NSW and it can be successful nationally,” he said in a statement.

But the coalition is having none of that.

Liberal MP Dan Tehan derided Mr Fitzgibbon’s topic for debate, given it came just after its country caucus was publicly announced.

“That’s why we have this (debate) here today,” he said.

“What an absolute joke.”

Mr Tehan said the country caucus came too late.

“You all should be ashamed of yourself, starting in the year 2014 a regional caucus and coming in here telling us who should stand up for regional and rural Australia.”

Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce joined in the derision.

If there was a friend for regional Australia, it was clear which side of the chamber they would find them in, he said.

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