No to inland rail inquiry, says Blair

Veitch and Blair go head to head for last time pre-election


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Mr Blair and his agriculture opponent Mick Veitch went head to head at a Farm Writers luncheon at the Grace Hotel in Sydney on Monday.

Mr Blair and his agriculture opponent Mick Veitch went head to head at a Farm Writers luncheon at the Grace Hotel in Sydney on Monday.

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Veitch says he'll consult with all stakeholders

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NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said there needs to be better consultation on the inland rail route but says an inquiry into the $8bn project would be a waste of money.

Mr Blair and shadow primary Industries minister Mick Veitch went head to head at a Farm Writers lunch in Sydney, with Mr Blair warning of the "risk" that Labor would make to agricultural policy in a new Daley Cabinet.

He said Labor had announced 10 or 11 regional reviews in the election campaign, including inland rail.

"When in doubt call for a review or call for an inquiry, just of the top of my head its 10 or 11 announced in the regional space have been announced in this election by Labor," Mr Blair said.

"I think there are definite issues around consultation and there needs to be better consultation on the route of inland rail, but again you have to look at the opportunity it represents. Yes absolutely landholders have concerns but I'm not sure another inquiry is going to settle those concerns, it will just cost a lot of money and delay the process even further.

"Proper consultation and proper engagement with landholders settling on the route should be fundamental rather than people spending a lot of money on an inquiry."

Mr Veitch said it was hypocritical of Mr Blair of calling out inquiries when almost 50 had happened during the O'Farrell government in 2011.

"An inquiry is what the locals are asking for. We went out there and heard what they are saying. They are concerned at the lack of consultation. they are concerned their pleas are not heard and that it has trammeled their views, we heard what they said and that's why we've announced that inquiry."

Mr Veitch promised if he became Primary Industries Minister that he would he consult with all agricultural stakeholders. He said he'd already established a good relationship with NSW Farmers and Labor's policies had responded to Farmers' policy  concerns.  

He said Labor would not repeal the Native Vegetation Act, instead bring in a new 14 point biodiversity plan, and would work towards better biodiversity outcomes, with landholders rewarded more fairly for initiating biodiversity plans on their farms.

Both men agreed drought was the biggest factor affecting agriculture at the moment. The restructure after the rain would take quite some time, Mr Veitch said, for farmers and communities to rebuild. He said Labor had not tried to play politics with the drought. Weeds would be a major problem as the drought ended.

Related: Native veg rules in conflict with natural justice and public policy formulation

"We have to make sure people don't leave communities looking for work. This is quite complex. We've matched anything the government has put on the table."

Mr Blair said the drought was also the biggest issue confronting agriculture. "I've been proud of the response we've had." he said.

He said the biggest risk to the farming sector was not Mick Veitch, but his colleagues. "If the unique situation if there is a change of government there are a lot of Mick's colleagues based in Sydney whose policies in relation to supporting animal justice party and also whop want to attack to property rights or water rights or native vegetation rights. We would have a cabinet that is very Sydney dominated and that is the biggest risk to the farming sector."

Both men said the election would be close with Mr Veitch predicting the final outcome might not be known for weeks after the March 23 election date.

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