Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:36): I rise to commend the member for Heysen's motion to the house and offer recognition to the farmers of my community and the entire Limestone Coast. Our region is justifiably famous for its wine, forestry and seafood products, all of which are reliant on a vibrant farming community and culture. You cannot visit the Limestone Coast without hearing about the Wagyu cattle at Mayura Station, Coonawarra's famous red wines or those freshly caught southern rock lobsters from Port MacDonnell. To quote Adelaide and Flinders universities' Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast report, 'The region is an agricultural, forestry and fishing “food bowl”, with an international reputation to match.'
Agricultural land occupies more than 70 per cent of our region. In Mount Gambier alone there are more than 300 businesses in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, which employ thousands of people. These industries are vitally important to the region's economy and also attract thousands of international visitors to our region each year, delivering a strong boost to tourism.
In particular, I would like to focus on the importance of paragraph (b) of this motion, recognising this year's theme as being 'innovative, safe and healthy'. Farmers often spend their days working alone and in hard to reach, remote areas. The lack of consistent mobile coverage is a big issue for those working in parts of regional South Australia where emergency services can be up to half an hour away.
I know farmers who use Twitter to communicate with each other but who cannot connect a phone call to the bloke who works down the road because of the lack of a reliable phone service. Like workers across all sectors, farmers should be able to have access to a safe workplace with strategies in place to assist should emergency situations occur. The basic fact is that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. At the Gen Ag 2017 conference, National Centre for Farmer Health representative, Jody Morton, said that 27 per cent of all Australian workplace fatalities were in the farming industry, but the statistics do not give the full picture, considering many farmers choose not to report workplace injuries.
I commend the South Australian government for recognising National Farm Safety Week. However, I think it is time for the government to guarantee reliable phone coverage to the farmers of regional South Australia to ensure an extra level of security and safety.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise Farmsafe Australia, SafeWork SA, the National Centre for Farmer Health and the University of South Australia's ifarmwell for their work not only in raising awareness and running programs on farm safety and injury and death prevention but also for their work in the field of mental health. A free, five-part module is offered by ifarmwell, aiming to equip farmers with resilience tools to reduce the negative impact that stressful situations have on their overall lives so they have more time and energy to focus on the things that make them happy and enjoy life.
It must be remembered that the future security of the farms depends on the whim of the weather. One good season can be followed by four terrible seasons, which can affect profitability, the entire farming workforce and also flow on to the community at large. To quote from the 2017 Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health Rural Suicide Prevention Forum report:
Even when seasonal conditions suggest a hopeful future, their personal experience reminds them of the realistic risk of future adverse conditions, such as too much or insufficient rainfall, too high or too low temperature, hail, frost, fire etc.
National Farm Safety Week and the programs of the South Australian farm safety organisations recognise the stresses farmers endure. Furthermore, I commend the work of Farmsafe and wellbeing organisations for their imperative work in making the farmers' workplace a better environment. Farming industries provide so much economic benefit to the region and the state. I believe it is important to support and protect our farmers now and into the future.