Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie listened in amazement in Bendigo this morning as the Federal Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Simon Crean spoke about new opportunities for economic diversification across the Murray Darling Basin.
“He said that the Gillard Government is “determined to deliver the reforms for a healthy, working basin,” but with the stroke of a pen the Murray Darling Basin Authority is planning to take 2,750 billion litres of water from farmers and 15,000 jobs,” Senator McKenzie said.
The Minister for Regional Australia has no idea about the issues in the regions. While farming and water dependent industries are crying out loud for water security, the Minister sees no problem with the fundamental concern that taking water away from productive use will hurt irrigators and Basin communities and jobs will be lost.
“The Minister for Regional Australia is the only person who is talking the Murray Darling Basin Draft Plan up. Everyone who lives in the Basin communities knows there will be job losses. All regional Victorians are calling for more certainty in terms of water security, infrastructure and jobs and once again, this Government doesn’t understand the issues.
“This Government is addicted to talking about jobs but it is doing nothing to generate them. In regional Australia, it takes years to create jobs.
“Water is an essential asset. We recognize the need for environmental flows but not at the expense of water that is needed for dairy farming, fruit production and for the region’s large food processing industry.
Northern Victoria produces more than one third of Australia’s food. The Goulburn Valley alone provides nearly 20 per cent of Victoria’s agricultural production and 80 per cent of this production is only possible as a result of irrigation.
“Last year’s Guide to the draft Plan was wholehearted rejected by Basin communities and sent back to include an analysis of its socio-economic impact on the region. What has been released this week only contains superficial analysis of the implication of removing water from areas that are so highly dependent on irrigation.”