Crean questions Milne's commitment
MINISTER for Regional Development Simon Crean has questioned new Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne's commitment to regional Australia.
Mr Crean said while he welcomed anyone calling for more focus on regional issues, Senator Milne had not shown she was willing to negotiate on balancing the interests of industry and environmental values.
"She could start by showing her support for the Intergovernmental Agreement on Tasmanian Forests," Mr Crean said.
He said finding a balance between the forestry industry and the environment was not helped by a lack of support from the Tasmanian Senator, who was elected Greens Leader on Friday after the resignation of Bob Brown.
But Ms Milne, who was in Orange on Wednesday as part of her regional listening tour, was quick to return fire.
"Minister Crean should come and talk to the farmers I've been speaking with today in central western New South Wales, or those I've worked with over 25 years across Tasmania and the mainland, before he questions my commitment," she said.
"I've been delighted by the open, honest conversations I've had today and the genuine interest in the Greens.
"We can't keep pretending to people that this industry can survive, with woodchip prices through the floor.
"We need a genuine process to help people out of native forest logging, not cash handouts to prop up a dying industry."
Ms Milne said reaching out to regional Australia would be a feature of her leadership.
She said she was committed to talking to regional Australia about the global issues affecting them, such as food security, climate change, sustainability and the environment.
Mr Crean cited the government's record of establishing the Department of Regional Australia, as part of a deal with key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, after the 2010 election.
"We have spent more on regional Australia and regional development than any other government," he said.
"The nature of the hung parliament that we are in, we are focusing on the strengths of regional Australia, on the power of localism."
Mr Crean was in Narrabri, in western New South Wales, on Wednesday to speak at a conference of the Australian National University's National Institute of Rural and Regional Affairs.