| September 11, 2017

Building Better Regions in Murray

It is a great opportunity to rise this afternoon to talk to the member for Capricornia's motion in relation to her commitment from within her government towards regional Australia. I first mention the $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, which the Mid-Loddon pipeline in the Wedderburn region has been a huge recipient of. The $20 million contribution from the federal government, part of an $80 million project overall, will see over 270 farming businesses now supplied with clean, reliable water. Those farms have never had a clean reliable water supply and when the dams run dry the farmers have to cart water, which is a heartbreaking and expensive pursuit and one that certainly will be fixed and finalised forever once we have this pipeline linking the Grampians system with the Goulburn system.

In clause 3 of the motion, the member mentioned the Building Better Regions Fund. Shepparton, in my electorate, has been a huge beneficiary of this fund, with $10 million from the federal government going towards the Shepparton Art Museum. There will be an overall build of around $35 million. This will be a world-class museum. It already houses one of Australia's best Indigenous painting exhibitions and has one of the best ceramic exhibitions.

When it comes to delivering for regional Australia, my electorate has also been the beneficiary of a $97 million contribution for the Echuca-Moama Bridge, a bridge that has been talked about by various governments for nearly 50 years but was finally delivered by the National Party in government at state level—the National Party in government in New South Wales at state level—and the National Party in government at the federal level. All up, just under $300 million is being delivered to the Echuca-Moama communities to finally deliver them the bridge for which they have been waiting for all these years.

The big one is a project that has been ongoing for many years now that has to do with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It is an investment in water efficiency programs. Over $2 billion has been spent in the Murray electorate in relation to a plan that was firstly called the Connections Plan. It is now, under another model, called the Reset. The Victorian government has carriage over this, but using federal money as well as some of their own. This is a great example of where water equals wealth. When you give agriculturalists and farmers an opportunity to create wealth they will do that, provided you can give them water at an affordable and reliable rate. This is something that has become incredibly important. We all know that the Labor Party, under a Labor government, has made it very clear that they want to take more water out of active and productive agriculture to send it down the river in the form of more environmental flows. They want to do this for 450 gigalitres over and above the water that has already left the region. They want to send another 450 thousand million litres of water down the river, irrespective of the damage that exodus of water will have on the Murray River and Goulburn River communities. This is something that we need to make everybody aware of—that we have to have a fight over this water—because, as I said earlier, water equals wealth and when you give productive agriculturalists the opportunity to create wealth, they will do that. They will create something out of nothing because they have the ability to use the water at its optimum level.

You cannot talk about regional Australia development and investment unless you talk about the Inland Rail. It is nearly a $10 billion project that will connect up all of the producers from within Victoria, through New South Wales, and right through into Queensland. Again, this is going to add income into all of those farming businesses, because they are going to be able to increase the farm gate price they receive for their produce. This is an investment made right here and now, but the benefits will be able to be enjoyed by farming businesses for the next four or five generations

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