Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Matters of Urgency
Climate Change: Water
I note that we are not taking any more time for the Nationals than was agreed. Senator McKenzie did cut her time. We're not seeking at all to deny other senators their appropriate times.
I want to add quick thoughts on this motion and particularly something that I don't think has been mentioned during this debate: I, as an Australian, am incredibly proud about what we have built as a nation in the Murray-Darling. There's been very little mention of the hard work, the pioneering effort that went into building the dams and the farms that actually feed us today, providing 40 per cent of our nation's food. We would really be in serious trouble—in as much trouble as the early settlers—if we didn't have the Murray-Darling here in Australia. We should recognise the sweat, the toil and the desperation that many people before us went through to get that to happen. I heard Senator Patrick say before, 'Let's just get rid of the dams,' as if that would mean nothing for the rest of the country! How would we feed ourselves? How would we be able to provide for other people in this country?
I think it's very important that we mention and recognise that some of the key things we want to achieve out of the management of the Murray-Darling is the production of food and the creation of viable rural communities that are not constantly under the threat of having their economic base pulled out from under them.
The National Party Senate leader, Senator McKenzie, summed it up very well before. What the National Party have brought back to this debate is people. We have brought back people to the heart of this debate—people on a farm, people who are trying to keep a farm in their family over generations and people who own a cafe in Wagga Wagga. I think Wagga Wagga has the best bakeries in this country and beautiful restaurants. Those people deserve to have a future. People in the cities who want to eat all the food they see on MasterChef or the latest reality TV show are important as well. There are the Indigenous people of the system as well. It was the Nationals that introduced a $40 million fund to buy back water for Indigenous people. I have met many Indigenous people through the basin. They too want to develop their own farms and economic opportunities and potentially use water.
It's very important in this debate that we represent the whole country, from the rural community with the farmers to the dinner plate in the urban environment. It is the National Party that has representatives right across the Murray-Darling. Sometimes in this debate you hear people say: 'Let's blow up the barrages. Let's blow up Cubbie Station. Let's blow up Menindee Lakes.' We have to manage it as a system. There is not one single answer. There is not one thing you can do that will solve all of the issues. It must be balanced in a respectful way that puts people at the heart of this debate because ultimately we all have an interest in seeing a strong, viable and sustainable Murray-Darling that can continue to feed us long into the future.