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Govt asked to buy Cubbie Station -

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Govt asked to buy Cubbie Station

Broadcast: 17/08/2009

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

Australia's biggest and thirstiest cotton farm is up for sale and the environment lobby wants the
Federal Government to be the buyer. Cubbie Station sucks billions of litres of water every year
from the Murray-Darling Basin - water the Government could let flow to replenish the parched river
system.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Australia's biggest and thirstiest cotton farm is up for sale, and the
environment lobby wants the Federal Government to buy it back.

Cubbie Station sucks billions of litres of water every year from the Murray-Darling Basin - water
the Government could let flow to replenish the parched river system.

But opponents argue the economic and social costs would be too high.

Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER, REPORTER: Vast, productive and very thirsty. This is one farm that's come to
represent all that's divisive in the national argument about water.

AMY HANKINSON, AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION: Cubbie Station is a massive cotton property that
siphons off billions of litres of water form the Murray-Darling system.

HAYDEN COOPER: At 90,000 hectares and annual rights to enough water to fill Sydney Harbour, Cubbie
Station is sure to make a splash in the market.

JOHN GRABBE, CUBBIE STATION: I believe the purchaser will be someone or some group that wishes to
produce fibre and grain - fibre and food for the world.

HAYDEN COOPER: But will the Federal Government enter the contest, with a bid on behalf of the
environment?

AMY HANKINSON: Buying Cubbie Station will mean huge benefits for our wetlands and wildlife
downstream.

HAYDEN COOPER: The states are open to the idea provided someone else pays.

ANNA BLIGH, QLD PREMIER: Going on the market presents a real opportunity for us to consider the
water allocation here.

HAYDEN COOPER: But if the Commonwealth is a bidder, it's a silent one.

PENNY WONG, WATER MINISTER: We will assess any sell offer through our buyback program, on the basis
of value for money and environmental need.

HAYDEN COOPER: Buying back water has been a favoured strategy in Kevin Rudd's effort to save the
Murray-Darling. But this time competition and the price tag of $450 million might outstretch the
public purse.

And even if it doesn't there are doubts about how far the water would travel before other
irrigators suck it up.

NICK XENOPHON, INDEPENDENT SENATOR: There won't be an environmental benefit under the way the rules
currently operate. That's why you need that national takeover.

HAYDEN COOPER: Otherwise the water fight will go on.

DAVID CROMBIE, NATIONAL FARMERS FEDERATION: I think in the case of the Murray-Darling, New South
Wales reckons Queensland's taking too much, the Victorians don't like what NSW is doing and South
Australia hates everyone.

HAYDEN COOPER: Water politics at its simplest.

Hayden Cooper, Lateline.