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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 107


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (18:43): Thank you Madam Acting Deputy President. I rise today to speak about the Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012. Over the Christmas-New Year's period, knowing the bill was coming up, I actually happened to go and visit people in the Murray Darling Basin affected by this bill. Instead of reading a report, I actually went out and spoke to some of these people and visited places like Rochester, Echuca, Mathoura, Deniliquin, Thyra, Finley, Jerilderie, Stanhope, Tongala and Benjeroop. There are a hell of a lot of people out there who feel anxiety and apprehension. They acknowledge that there has been an overallocation of water, but they say that the greater concern that they believe we should be addressing is, amongst other things, Cubbie Station and the enormous amount of water that went with that and the foreign ownership of our land and our water resources. Also, people have mentioned to me the effect of managed investment schemes in past years and the effect that had on the sell-off of water resources connected with managed investment scheme tree farms, for example, and then seeing those farms fall into foreign hands. These are some of the things that we should be looking at if we are talking about water. Some of the people had pubs up in these areas, or tyre businesses, fuel businesses or engineering works, or they were diesel mechanics. People in these communities wonder what is going on when we have the Victorian government buying up land, for instance, around Benjeroop and Tongala in Victoria. They are buying the land and then taking the water and returning the water. Then we have got the federal government doing it and we have got other state governments involved in this process. What is the overall plan and the overall coordination, and is it going to deliver the benefits for the environment that we are told it will?

Ultimately, when farmers and communities in the Murray-Darling Basin, our river communities, and in rural and urban communities around Australia make decisions, there are consequences for those decisions, and they fear that decisions are being made for them, their families, their livelihoods and their communities by people who, they feel, have conducted a so-called consultation process but with a preconceived outcome and that they are just pawns in this process. People have read that the water to these towns and communities is assured under the plan, but when we remove water from our farmers we remove a great part of their income.

Let us say, for example, that we have got two tyre services in a town and our farmers' income is reduced and we have got fewer farmers on the land. As a result, there is less need for tyre services. The critical mass to keep these businesses going and be able to offer the people in these towns competitive prices is diminished because there is not enough cake there for both of them to eat. This is the problem facing these communities. The overwhelming feeling of these people is that they are not being listened to, they are not being considered. I have serious reservations about this bill, as do these communities and, as such, I will be voting against it. Thank you.