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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3769


Ms LEY (Farrer) (10:22): I rise this morning with a particular eye on a very important part of my electorate. Tomorrow and Saturday, at the Griffith showgrounds, it will be my great pleasure to be back at the Riverina Field Days—the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area's annual showcase of the best agricultural machinery and products available. The Riverina Field Day, like many other agricultural fairs held through the length and breadth of regional Australia, attracts thousands of local people. Like all such days, the two big topics in my region when I get there tomorrow will be the weather and the water. On water, at least the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, I can take back some good news. This week, the Senate was finally able to give some certainty to our local irrigators by securing an agreement to get this plan back on track. The vote to uphold the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism succeeded when Labor joined with us to defeat the Greens' attempt to crush my irrigation communities from Griffith to Gol Gol. This means that work can continue on recovering an additional 450 gigalitres for environment projects, as required by the plan, but with an overriding protection that recovery of this water must be with neutral or improved socioeconomic outcomes. I can assure every single constituent in my electorate that I will be watching this 450 gigalitre recovery process. It's only up to 450 and it's only with improved socioeconomic outcomes; in other words, no change from the existing legislation. I will be watching it very, very closely.

What the Greens and Labor don't get, unless it suits them politically, is that regional Australia doesn't want to play nasty political games; it just wants to get on with the job of delivering Australia's fastest growing and most important export industry—agriculture. Regional Australia and the ag sector should be pretty happy with this week's budget, with an extra $50 million a year for things such as improved biosecurity, better access to chemicals, and pest and weed prevention. It also includes $4.7 million over four years to better understand seasonal labour demand and supply—an area which is critical to the local workforce.

Unfortunately, drought is starting to be spoken about more often. When the Basin Plan was formalised, we were in the middle of the millennium drought. The last thing we need now, as we get towards completion of the plan, is another drought. But, if it is to be, then the government stand ready to assist. Since 2013, we've provided more than $1 billion in assistance measures to help farmers and communities in drought. This includes business concessional loans, household allowance, managing risk and rural financial counselling. If the weather stays, we have a special assistance hotline, meaning farmers can receive the best possible advice to support them. (Time expired)