This is the transcript of my speech, delivered on September 17, 2019 and 16:03 in the Federation Chamber.
The National Party can always be counted on to stand up for the people that it represents. This is becoming incredibly more evident when we see so many of our irrigation communities in severe drought throughout New South Wales—and the effects of the drought are still very prevalent in my region of Nicholls. Even though the crops and the pastures are looking good, we are in a very nervous situation. We need some more spring rains to get through the next two to three months.
But there are serious cracks appearing in the social fabric of our regional communities. Over the last week I’ve spoken to a number of members of state governments, producer representatives, individual farmers, industry representatives and brokers. Federal members and senators representing the southern connected basin are working together to try and target solutions. Victorian irrigators, particularly in the Goulburn-Murray region, are at breaking point. A healthy Murray-Darling Basin is one that balances environmental objectives with the social and economic objectives of a community. But, right now, that social and economic balance isn’t being experienced at all.
To date, more than 2,100 gigalitres of the 2,750 target set out in the Basin Plan have been returned to the environment. So far Victoria has done the bulk of the heavy lifting, with 810 gigalitres of that water being recovered from Victorian irrigators; that’s equivalent to the water use of about 4,000 average-sized Victorian dairy farms. On top of this we have the inter-valley water trade, which is pushing the water market over $800 a megalitre. That makes it cost prohibitive for many of our dairy farmers.
On the weekend, at the Nationals Federal Council, we passed two urgency motions.
That this Federal Council notes the dire circumstances facing irrigators in Victoria and southern NSW and strongly opposes the recovery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s 450GL of up water.
That this Federal Council calls on the Federal Government to direct the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to trade 300GL for immediate use by drought impacted communities in Victoria and NSW to ensure critical food production and manufacturing businesses remain viable.
It is an absolute crisis out there throughout the drought-affected areas. When there is water in the storages that our farmers can’t reach, it makes it even harder for our farmers to understand what the Murray-Darling Basin is all about.