My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Agriculture.
The specific action I seek is the immediate commencement of an independent study of the impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin plan implementation to date.
The Goulburn-Murray irrigation district is regarded as the food bowl of Victoria.
It has a $1.8 billion irrigation modernisation project underway to strengthen agricultural productivity in the region, but the region has lost over one-third of its water from productive use because of the basin plan.
The commonwealth government’s agricultural white paper commits to developing irrigation in northern Australia and funding dams. At the same time the commonwealth is drying off Victorian irrigation areas that have productive land, existing modernised irrigation infrastructure and a capable food-processing industry. That makes no sense. The commonwealth claims the basin plan has certainty for agriculture, but the opposite is the case. Uncertainty has been created by the commonwealth’s commitment to provide an additional 450 gigalitres of water for the environment. This could further reduce irrigation deliveries in the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district by an amount in the order of up to 200 gigalitres. That would be a major blow for the region’s jobs and productivity.
At a time when we are being told that there are great opportunities for growing our food exports, this is being put at risk because further water could be taken from productive use. My constituents are well aware of the adverse socio-economic impact that many aspects of water reform has had on our district. Indeed a meeting of over 1000 people last month at Barham, on the Murray River, provided an opportunity for those in attendance to articulate their particular concerns in relation to losses of population, services, jobs and productivity in their local communities. Given that the commonwealth has said it will not take more water where an adverse socio-economic outcome will occur, it is essential that Victoria gathers the necessary evidence and information now to fight off any further incursions.