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Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Page: 11940


Mr DRUM (MurrayNationals Whip) (10:23): I would like to take this opportunity to put the state of play of agriculture in the Murray electorate on the table. Agriculture is obviously the backbone of the region and the farmers of Murray produce a diverse range of commodities. Obviously, in the broadacre regions, those are beef, wheat and other cereals, oilseeds and lamb. But at the heart of the Murray region is the irrigation district. The Goulburn Valley is one of the largest growers of fruit and vegetables—but mainly fruit—in Australia, and one of our largest dairy industries is in the Goulburn Valley as well.

This is not directly associated with the drought at the moment, but it is obviously under a huge amount of stress due to the high price of water, which is a consequence of the drought, and also due to the very high prices for feed for our dairy cows. The temporary price of water at the moment is trading at above $400 a megalitre, which is making it cost-prohibitive for dairy farmers to buy water at that price. It's also very touch and go for our fruitgrowers to buy water at $400 a megalitre.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity of hosting David Littleproud, the Minister for Agriculture, at a farmers' forum in Shepparton where about 170 farmers were able to come along and ask the minister any question that they wanted to—in respect of the dairy industry mandatory code of conduct, where the fruit industry is at or free trade agreements that are hugely beneficial in my part of Australia. Minister Littleproud was able to talk to the farmers there about the challenges ahead, what's going well with the industry and how we are going to push ahead to be major contributors in this $100 billion economy by 2030, and that is the national goal for agriculture.

One of the other interesting and critical aspects in relation to the state of agriculture in the Murray region is the concept of water. There are 450 gigalitres of water associated with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that are to be recovered only if it can be proven that taking further water out of the region will do no socioeconomic damage to the communities. The test associated with social and economic neutrality—that any water taken out has to be beneficial or neutral to the community—will have to be defined and put to the MinCo later this week.