30th April 2020

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:13): I would like to speak with appreciation about the good people of the Riverland, the electorate of Chaffey particularly, over the Easter period. The holiday break, particularly the school holidays, has been a significant challenge for many not only to stay home, to social isolate and social distance but also to make sure that the kids remain safe, particularly over the period of uncertainty during school holidays, dealing with COVID-19. I thank them for their discipline, particularly over that Easter school holiday period.

I also want to speak about the uniqueness of ANZAC Day. Recently, I was up in the Riverland and I was asked to go along to some of the limited capacity of people at some of those ceremonies. I had the good fortune as the local member to be proud of those who represented our country and to pay my respects. It allowed me to go out and lay wreaths at a number of crosses of sacrifice, and to go out and lay wreaths in areas that I do not always have the opportunity to get to, because in some instances I was not time constrained.

I took off quite early on ANZAC Day and my first port of call was Renmark. Renmark is obviously one of the larger Riverland towns and I laid a wreath there. I moved on to Loxton for the dawn service and then went up to the Barmera RSL, where I laid a wreath. I then went on to the gardens at Waikerie and across the river and down to Cadell to pay my respects there. I went to Morgan to lay a wreath and I then went to Blanchetown.

It took me about 7½ hours to drive around parts of the electorate to pay my respects for quite a unique ANZAC Day. It was an ANZAC Day that was quite private. Some people around the region stood at their front gates, some had fire buckets, some had flower arrangements on their front gates or their porches with lights on, and there were barbecues. I made a wreath out of glory vine for my front gate. I pruned a vine and made quite a unique wreath that was glowing in red with the unfallen red flowers of that glory vine. I was very, very proud.

Moving along, it is great to announce that the Browns Well Highway is having that stimulus money move forward. It has been an issue for a long time, between Loxton and Pinnaroo. The previous government decided to do the wrong thing and reduce speed limits down to 100 km/h without fixing up the roads. That was the way that they operated, particularly in the regions of South Australia. The regions were long forgotten under a Labor administration.

It is great news that the stimulus has been brought forward. It is a $15 million package that will fast-track and upgrade the Browns Well Highway. Many, many constituents along that highway, the majority of them farmers, are absolutely elated, with the cessation of rail and now seeing many more trucks on that highway, that they will see that $15 million of works fast-tracked to upgrade 100 kilometres of shoulder sealing, as well as the seven kilometres of pavement rehabilitation works, new line marking, replacement of guideposts and installation of approximately 10 kilometres of safety barrier.

Cobdogla Primary School and the Waikerie High School are the recipients of fast-tracking of some of the school maintenance program, and that really is very good news as part of a $32 million economic stimulus package. Cobdogla will see much-needed funds to improve some of the cladding and timber work that I have taken note of, and of course the improvements will upgrade the school.

Some might have seen in the local Adelaide paper that the agribusiness consultancy Ernst and Young have released a report into the Riverland Wine and Food Centre. It is a great outcome. It was an election commitment I gave to the good people of the Riverland. It is a six-star wine and food centre that will create up to 117 direct jobs and inject $14½ million into the state's economy. The business case is out there. I am looking to work with potential investors and those business cases will be very gratified to come forward.

What I would say is that the people of the Riverland are in good health and good stead. Getting through this COVID-19 exercise has been very challenging, but they will rise to the task. I am very proud to represent the electorate of Chaffey.

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