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Standing Committee on Regional Australia
Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia
Standing Committee on Regional Australia
House of Representatives committee
Monday, 24 January 2011
Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia

CHAIR (Mr Windsor) —In opening today’s hearing, I thank you all, not only those who have made submissions, for taking the time to be here today. To put today’s meeting into context, this parliamentary inquiry has chosen a series of people who have made submissions to give evidence to try to represent the broad balance of submissions that we have received. Something like 600 submissions have been made, so we cannot hear from everybody; if we did we would need 50 days of hearings, which is just not physically possible. So we have tried to get as broad a cross-section as we can from amongst those who have made submissions. The main benefit of this sort of inquiry is to allow the committee to question people on what they believe is important in their submission, which gives us a greater understanding of what people have said in writing.

I will now turn to the formalities of today’s hearing. This is the sixth public hearing of an inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in regional Australia. This inquiry was referred to the committee by the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon. Simon Crean.

The committee has received around 600 submissions, which are available on the committee’s website. The committee will call witnesses to the table as per the program, and time allowing will then proceed to allow members of the general public to make brief statements. We have a fairly tight program, having commitments later this afternoon and having to be in Griffith tonight. If you wish to make a statement, please give your name to the secretariat so that that can be arranged. I refer members of the media who may be present at this hearing to the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee.

For those who do not know me, I am the member for New England, which encompasses the areas of Tamworth, Gunnedah, Armidale and Inverell, covering a bit over 65,000 square kilometres and having a voting population of about 93,000. The one thing all members of parliament have in common is that, irrespective of the size of our electorates, we all have a similar voting base.

I am a farmer and have been all my life, and my son is actively involved on the farm now, so I understand some of the issues in relation to farming. He has just had 1,700 acres of chickpeas under water twice, so I understand some of the issues of flooding in that sense. I was born in this catchment and I intend to die in this catchment, preferably not today! I think you will find there is a very real commitment by all of our members on the committee as to this particular program. We take it very seriously and we believe, given that we are a microcosm of the parliament, that we can make some very meaningful contributions to the eventual outcomes.

As well as the committee members who are here, I would like to acknowledge John Williams and also to thank Sussan for the work she has done over the last few days. I would also like to thank the people from Murray Irrigation who took us around yesterday and those from various other agencies we ran into from time to time. I also thank the farmers who gave us the opportunity to visit their properties and look at various aspects. It is not until you do that that you really get an idea of it and we also flew over this area, which encapsulated the size of it and the scale of things, so thank you to those people.

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