PM needs to take decisive action
August 13, 2018
The Prime Minister must take decisive action to help farmers grow desperately needed fodder for starving, drought-stricken stock.
In doing so, he will honour a commitment from predecessor John Howard and prioritise common-sense over political expediency.
Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said the present situation, where food producers are denied the opportunity to help their colleagues in need, has to be rectified.
“Everyone supports environmental flows and storing environmental water for times of need, but we also must have a sensible, effective balance. The present situation highlights the fact we have not yet found that balance,” Mrs Scoullar said, pointing out that:
- Currently we have plenty of water in storage – nearly 90 per cent in Dartmouth Dam and nearly 50 per cent in Hume Dam; and
- South Australia’s Lower Lakes at minor flood level, with water that has been pushed down the system from the Dartmouth and Hume.
- Food producers watching water pour down the Murray River and out to sea, but unable to use it because their allocation is at zero (yes, that’s right, ZERO!).
Mrs Scoullar said while these food producers understand the need to store some environmental water for future use, the dire drought situation demands a fresh approach and would honour a commitment from Mr Howard.
On January 25, 2007, when the Water Act was being drafted he told the National Press Club: “Water that accrues to the Commonwealth Government through these (recovery) measures will be managed to restore the health of the rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. The counter-cyclical nature of environmental watering will also allow some water to be made available to irrigators during dry periods.”
“Where is that water during this dry period?” Mrs Scoullar asked.
“While some are declaring this our worse drought in history and the media are calling in the army to help, those in the ideal position to help alleviate the pain being felt can only watch as water flows by, bringing flood at the end of the system and ultimately being poured out into the sea.
“I’m sure that is not what Mr Howard envisaged just over a decade ago,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“Our current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote the Water Act which has prioritised the environment of the Lower Lakes and Coorong above the needs of communities, starving animals and humans further upstream.
“At this desperate time he needs to step in and fix this mess. Surely he will not continue to allow farmers to watch crops die and others walk away from their farms, not to mention the job losses and damage to rural communities.”
Mrs Scoullar highlighted that the environment has had a number of good years, including the natural floods of less than two years ago, and in our land of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ does not need unnatural flooding year after year. Instead, it needs effective management with sensible use of water resources.
“Speak Up calls on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and provide water so food producers in the New South Wales Murray region can grow fodder for starving stock in other areas.
“This decision will take courage, because we know there will be opposition from the ‘latte do-gooders’ in our capital cities who have little understanding of the river system or the importance of balancing water priorities.
“Will Mr Turnbull continue bowing to city votes, or will he take decisive action to support rural communities and drought-stricken regions? In effect, they’re the choices,” Mrs Scoullar said.