I am very pleased that the Victorian government has finally released its long-awaited study into the social and economic impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin plan in this state.
This report largely backs the results of that completed by RMCG, at the request of the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district (GMID) water leadership group — a group chaired by myself.
You have heard me speak of this group and this report before, as the report was released in October last year. Up until last week it was the only significant study in the state that had looked at this issue, and there was a total absence of any report having been prepared by or coming from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
With two reports saying the same thing there are certain facts the Murray-Darling Basin Authority can no longer ignore. That includes the fact that our farmers will be even more exposed in the next drought season. The dairy industry will be the hardest hit, and that in turn puts the GMID at higher risk than most because of our large number of dairy farmers. The basin plan has delivered a range of outcomes. Our farms are becoming more efficient, and in Victoria in particular it has returned 75 per cent of the water target, but we must discuss the knife at our throat.
The government report backs up the fact that we are now at a tipping point. The 450 gigalitres of upwater should never have been a part of the deal, and it must be removed from the agreement. These two reports show that to deliver this amount of water would clearly signal the end of the dairy industry as we know it and severely impact the operation of our horticulturalists and mixed farmers. The GMID is the food bowl of Victoria. Removing the upwater from the plan will give surety to farmers, to the wider community and to investors.