Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bills

Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; In Committee

11:44 am

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I will comment on just the final part of Senator Joyce's contribution about jobs being lost. That is a concern I have very deeply for regional communities. I can tell the story of Ron Gray, a Riverland irrigator who has been a champion for decent country-of-origin food labelling laws in this country. Australian citrus growers are competing with concentrate for which we have had positively misleading food labelling laws under which you can call orange juice 'made in Australia' but it could be 90 per cent Brazilian concentrate. What are Ron Gray and his fellow farmers doing? They are ripping up their trees. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

The issue of water is absolutely critical but we also have issues about the high Australian dollar—an artificially high Australian dollar—that is killing our farmers. There has been no decent policy response from the Australian government to this. There is also the dumping of products from overseas at below cost. We have weak antidumping laws. There is another issue of our food labelling laws, which are woefully inadequate. I know that Senator Joyce and then-senator Bob Brown co-sponsored a bill. If that is not an unusual unity ticket in relation to country-of-origin labelling laws, I do not know what is. Senator John Williams has been absolutely passionate on this issue as well. So, let us look at a whole range of issues as to why jobs are being lost in regional communities. It is because of the policy failures of successive Australian governments in relation to country-of-origin labelling and the dumping of products from overseas below cost. Right now in this country our food labelling laws positively mislead consumers, and the government's response has been woeful.

I cannot support Senator Joyce's amendment because, by saying 'up to 450 gigalitres', means it is simply aspirational. There are no real teeth to the amendment. You might as well say 'up to 450 squillion gigalitres'—I do not know what 'squillion' is defined as in the Macquarie Dictionarybut, whatever the amount, 'up to' does not give it any real teeth.

My question to the parliamentary secretary, and this is not in any way a criticism of Senator Joyce, is about the reference to 450 gigalitres being about the amount that South Australia takes from the Murray. It would be useful to put on the record what the present amount is. I have a view as to what the amount is but I may be quite wrong. The parliamentary secretary, through his advisers, might be able to assist us on that.

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