Mr COULTON (Parkes—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (10:46): The drought continues to bite across regional Australia in the eastern States, particularly in my electorate of Parkes, the just under 400,000 square kilometres that I represent in this place. There has been some relief in the north-eastern part of the electorate, and we’re starting to see some summer crops go in, which is good, but over large parts of my electorate the drought’s continuing to bite. There are actually some other problems coming through that probably weren’t foreseen and need some attention.
One of the issues with drought is that people probably tend to be working more closely with their livestock than they would normally during a normal season—dealing with sick and dead animals, pulling kangaroos out of dams and the like—so what we are seeing is an increase in Q fever. For anyone who doesn’t know, Q fever is an insidious blood-borne disease that is quite debilitating to people that come into contact with it. In the Nyngan area, up to half-a-dozen cases have been identified. I was speaking with the Mayor of Nyngan [Bogan Shire Council], Councillor Ray Donald, a couple of weeks ago. He’s concerned about the fact that people are vulnerable to Q fever. One of the catches is that the vaccination is quite expensive, so farmers who are quite financially stressed are finding the cost of the vaccine prohibitive. It’s not an automatic thing; you have to have a blood test to make sure that you haven’t already had Q fever before. Then, if you haven’t had it before, you are eligible to have the vaccination. It costs about $300, which is quite expensive.
We already have mandatory Q fever vaccination for meat processors, veterinarians and others. I have written to the agriculture minister, Minister Littleproud, and the health minister, Minister Hunt, asking for assistance and guidance on how we might be able to offer some relief to these farmers and encourage them to take the blood test if they’re eligible to be tested. I know people personally who have had Q fever, and it is an insidious disease. It tends to recur at regular times. I’ve actually known someone whose body became so weakened battling this disease for, probably, the 20 years that I knew him that he finally passed away because of the effects that Q fever had on his body and the organs within his body. So I am working on behalf of the farmers who are concerned about this disease. Hopefully, we’ll get a response from the minister soon.