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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1761

Dr STONE (Murray) (13:57): Everybody knows, particularly in the southern Murray-Darling Basin, that non-strategic water buyback is a killer. It makes our irrigation systems less efficient. It distorts the price for water in the irrigators market. It drives money back to the banks, that is for sure—it is all about retiring debt. So we were pleased when the minister for water, Tony Burke, some little while ago said: 'I understand this. I'm going to put a moratorium on any further government tenders.' We were shocked therefore a few days ago to find that these tenders are back on the shelf—they are back in business. We are going to see the tenders of this government rolled out with our drought stressed, debt stressed irrigators now once again pushed by their bank lenders to put their water up for sale. When you sell your water you sell your productivity. When you sell your water you make your neighbours have to pay a lot more for their irrigation services because your irrigation system is less efficient. It is called the Swiss cheese effect.

Minister Tony Burke heard about that right across the basin. His Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair and its committee understand this very well. The Tony Windsor led regional standing committee came out with, as a No. 1 policy recommendation, no more non-strategic buybacks. So why have we got this government reneging completely on the promises it made just months ago, putting a tender back into the system, putting enormous pressure back on our irrigation farmers, who cannot go on producing food like they should? (Time expired)