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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1682

Ms LEY (Farrer) (16:30): I rise today with a double honour of being a woman and representing the women from my electorate, quite a number of whom, I might warn honourable colleagues, are on their way to Canberra later this month. I also warn the House that not just one woman has been upset but many thousands throughout the Murray-Darling Basin and you are set to hear about it long and loud. You see, the Women for a Living Basin have had enough. They have had enough of being duped by doublespeak and double standards during this current process of reform known as the Basin Plan.

I too am from the basin and I can tell you I have been to meeting after meeting. I have heard from farmers, businesspeople, families, schools and councils. I have spoken to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Thousands of the people whom I represent have tried to speak to the authority and, here is the problem: we do not believe that the authority or the government are really listening. We are not even sure that they are interested in what we have to say.

So, instead, the Women for a Living Basin are coming to Canberra and are hoping that some of you will listen to their message. That message is a pretty simple one: we want someone from this government to recognise there are real people and real communities who stand to be decimated by the plan as it currently stands. Being family and fair minded, the women of the basin want a holistic outcome, achieving practical and common sense results for all of the basin, indeed all of Australia.

Why is the Basin Plan still so far removed from common sense? Canberra is also part of the basin on the Murrumbidgee River system and the authority wants to take 183 gigalitres from this valley to give back to the environment. To give you a real life idea of that amount, 183 gigalitres is roughly six times the size of Lake Burley Griffin. The authority has not told you how or where that figure will be achieved so, without a better idea, let's say they decide instead to flush all the water out of Lake Burley Griffin to assist the straw-necked ibis, large royal spoonbill and southern bell frog living downstream.

Flushing water from the lake behind my shoulder is not, by the way, so fanciful. That is exactly what the authority has planned for Lake Hume in Albury, where I live—to flush the water out of Lake Hume down the Murray to flood wetlands, farmlands and everything in its way to eventually flow out of the Murray mouth eight or nine years out of 10. Let's imagine the Murray-Darling Basin Authority was not based in Canberra but in Albury, Deniliquin, Broken Hill, Finley or Jerilderie—actually that is where it should be based, but that is a debate for another day—out there in the bush, not knowing just how important Burley Griffin was to this city and it was decided it could be emptied six times a year to help out the frogs downstream. Why not? What other function is there for Lake Burley Griffin? It is like saying: stuff Canberra—we need your water for something more important.

Down south in the basin, that is exactly how we feel. It is like someone in a high-rise office in Civic saying, 'Stuff you, we need your water for something more important.' It also completely ignores the fact that the basin produces 90 per cent of the fresh food grown in Australia that ends up on your plate. Of course, the authority is not planning to empty Lake Burley Griffin to look after a frog—that would be stupid. It would also impact detrimentally on Canberra and all those who like their lake, and I do too.

For the benefit, shall I say, of my male colleagues here in the chamber, let me explain women's intuition. It is when someone of the female gender is clued in on something that has not happened yet but probably will, unless they intervene. That intuition will be on full display here on 29 February and I suggest to all my federal colleagues: ignore these women at your peril. I invite as many members as possible to come and talk and listen to the Women for a Living Basin campaign here on 29 February. I thank those women from my electorate and neighbouring electorates who are making this happen, because, as I said, they have had enough and they want to bring their message, their passion and their commitment to their rural communities here to Canberra.

The SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Farrer for that particularly thoughtful contribution.