Thursday, 4 July 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Given the severity of the drought, what is the Morrison government doing to address international speculators in the water market pushing up the price of water for farmers?
I'll make a brief remark and then hand over to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management. The Future Drought Fund was brought into this parliament before the election. It was the product of the National Drought Summit, which was intended to provide ongoing permanent support to build drought resilience in this country. I hope the opposition now, on the other side of the election, will change their position and support this initiative and provide this much-needed support and encouragement to people and families in rural and regional Australia, whether they are on farm or living in farming communities. This parliament should support that initiative and the many other initiatives we've brought to address the ongoing drought.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
The Leader of the Opposition interjects, but before the last election the Leader of the Opposition was part of the same shadow cabinet that voted against the Future Drought Fund. They said they would oppose it; they would not support it, and they sent an appalling message. They may wish to reconsider that matter, and I ask the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management to add to my answer.
Let me go to the point around the water market. Obviously, as I've gone around and done shed meetings with irrigators up and down the basin, both in the north and in the south, one of the great concerns that I was hearing, particularly exacerbated by the drought, is the cost of water. Ninety-three per cent of trades happened in the southern basin, where a lot of the conjecture is. Fourteen per cent of those that own water licences don't own land.
Now, when state governments separated water from land, I don't know whether their intent was where the market has evolved to now. The government took swift action after listening to the concerns of real people on the ground in farmers' sheds. With the Treasurer, I've now nearly finalised terms of reference so the ACCC can get under the bonnet of the water market to make sure that the original intent of this market, when it was created, is still working and that small farming families are not taken out of it. This is a responsible step in making sure that we understand that the market is as pure as it was intended to be, and we will make sure that the terms of reference are broad enough so that the ACCC can give confidence to everybody.
The transparency that is required within this Basin Plan will be seen through. The states also have a part to play in this.
It's to relevance. The question was very specific about the impact of international speculators in the water market and the impact that that's having on farmers. I'm sure it has been raised with the minister in those very meetings he has spoken about.
I'll simplify it for the Leader of the Opposition. Within that 14 per cent are international players. We're not running away from that. That's why the ACCC will look at it. To keep it in simple terms: they will be taken into this inquiry by the ACCC. That 14 per cent are part of the cohort that we are looking at. That is a responsible action of a government that listens—that listens to the people, not just the bureaucrats. We've sat in the sheds and we've listened to real people. (Time expired)