In relation to reports in today’s News Limited papers, between 2007 and 2013 I was Agriculture Minister, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Immigration.
My view has always been agriculture ministers should be out in the farming communities they’re responsible for and environment ministers should be out in the places they need to make decisions about.
These jobs cannot be done properly from behind a desk in Sydney and any minister not out engaging with community groups and taking a hands-on approach to their portfolio, isn’t doing their job properly.
Where possible I hired a car and drove myself between meetings and site visits.
As Agriculture Minister I had to establish new rules for bulk wheat exportation with the abolition of the AWB monopoly, and conduct extensive consultation on drought reform during the depths of one of Australia’s longest and deepest droughts.
As Environment Minister I undertook extensive consultation to achieve World Heritage and National Heritage in Cape York and the Kimberley, the completion of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the establishment of the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement and the creation of the largest network of marine reserves in the world.
During my three months as Immigration Minister there was an intense period of overseas travel to implement Labor’s regional resettlement arrangements in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which saw the number of boat arrivals drop by 90 per cent and could not have been implemented without direct and regular overseas engagement.
All travel budgets are currently being considered in the review announced by the Prime Minister and supported by Labor.
In relation to office expenses, my office had to relocate twice during the period highlighted and all costs were determined by the Department of Finance. I have always remained well within the budgets allocated to all MPs.