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Remarks [speech] made to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Forbes Community Information Session, Forbes



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH

4 November 2010 TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR REMARKS AT THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN AUTHORITY FORBES COMMUNITY INFORMATION SESSION

FORBES, NEW SOUTH WALES

E&OE……………………….………………………………………………………………………………..

Now, can I just say first of all to Ian and to Mike and to the officials, thank you for running this meeting. I think it’s incredibly important that people get a chance to see what is planned, but I do think in a sense you’ve been put in a very difficult position because what we’ve heard today from officials is that basically it’s all about the Act. What we here in Canberra from the Government is that basically it’s all about the Authority. Now what we’ve got is a whole lot of buck-passing going on and when there is buck-passing there is a problem. There is a problem.

I want to say essentially two things. The first thing I want to say is we have got a great agricultural system in this country and I want to say to Mayor Peter, good on you for standing up for the agriculture sector of this country. This is a great country. These are great people and we have got to preserve our agricultural sector.

There is no way that any Australian Government should be allowed to permanently damage the agricultural sector of this country which not only feeds Australians but also feeds millions of people around the world. That should be the bottom line of these discussions. We have to look after the agricultural sector. The second point I want to make is that this, in the end, is an issue for government and there should be a government minister here to listen to what the Australian people are saying. Mike, I think it is fantastic that you and your colleagues have spent every working day since the beginning of October holding these meetings, but I’m afraid not one government minister has spent any working day doing these meetings and that is the big problem.

Now, I’m pleased that I’ve had the chance to come up here today because I think it is absolutely essential that whatever government does is done with respect and in consultation with the people who are affected. We have a problem, no doubt about that, but we can’t solve it by ignoring the people who might be hurt by the solution and I think that the absence of government ministers means that there is a serious risk that we might solve the environmental problems of the Murray-Darling Basin by destroying the agricultural sector of the Murray-Darling Basin and that is the last thing that an Australian Government should do.

So look, ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t come here intending to try to make a big speech because this is your meeting not mine, but in the end if it is going to be about you, you do deserve to get a good hearing and I fear that that is not what’s currently happening. Finally can I just say, in part in response to my colleague, the local member John Cobb, we do need a plan, but it’s got to be the right plan and I don’t believe that the process that we are currently going through is necessarily going to produce the right plan. We will only get the right plan if you’ve got government ministers here, taking responsibility for the decisions that in the end they have to make. [ends]