Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Matters of Urgency
Climate Change: Water
Do you Greens want it? That would be great, because the Greens solution is to just add water. That's all the Greens can think about when it comes to managing our environment and managing our waterways: just add water. Miraculously it rains, and Wilcannia's got water. I wish I could make it rain and I wish that we could stop taking water and still feed ourselves and still clothe ourselves. Would that not be good, Senator Patrick? The same can be said for your irrigators, who are fantastic irrigators. South Australian irrigators are very good. New South Wales irrigators are good. We need our irrigation industry. We absolutely need our irrigation industry. It underpins our agricultural production and it underpins our regional communities and our regional economies. And it's these communities and economies that have been absolutely devastated by the 'just add water' approach that the Greens cling to time and time again.
I want to remind this chamber what our communities have given in the name of the environment, and it goes way back. Let's talk about the early nineties, when communities in Victoria and New South Wales gave up their right to some water in the name of the environment, with the very first environmental water allocation, the Barmah-Millewa forest allocation. They gave that water up with no compensation. Then again, in the late nineties, the cap on diversions was put in place, and again our communities gave up water, with no compensation, in the name of the environment. Fast forward to the 2000s and we got a National Party minister, and good on him—John Anderson did the right thing. He recognised water as a property right. He developed the National Water Initiative, which the Greens are now holding up as the doyen for water reform. Thank you, National Party. If it weren't for the National Party, that water initiative would not have been signed in place, and the Productivity Commission report wouldn't exist. So thank you to the National Party for that. That is not the only reform the National Party have led.
My colleague and friend Senator Patrick over there doesn't believe that the National Party have taken any steps when it comes to water compliance, and that could not be further from the truth. It was the National Party in New South Wales that implemented the Natural Resources Access Regulator, which is now held up as the compliance cop on the beat in the basin. The National Party has led the way in developing modern telemetric technology to apply to on-farm water storage so that we can measure what we manage when it comes to water. We in New South Wales and Victoria have had telemeters and compliant meters for years, since the early nineties. In fact, in my area of Murray Irrigation, we have had volumetric caps on our entitlements and metered take since the sixties. People down at the south end of the system stand on a soapbox and try to claim purity, when, in their districts, up until two years ago, they were allowed to take water with no water in their account. They were the only jurisdiction left in the Murray-Darling Basin that, even under National Water Initiative compliant entitlement regimes, were allowed to access water when they didn't have it in their account, effectively manipulating the market, going into the market after the fact, when prices were cheaper, instead of, like every other state in basin, having to have a positive account balance. Imagine that—it's like having water on a credit card. It should not happen and, thankfully, South Australia have taken steps to amend that—congratulations to them. But I remind other South Australians who stand on a soapbox and point the finger: don't throw stones in glass houses.
I also want to remind people that the Greens hold this up and say the Nationals shouldn't have the portfolio because they deny climate change. I've never denied climate change. My colleagues don't deny climate change. But you can't make all policy—
Honourable senators interjecting—