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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11929

Mrs MIRABELLA (5:47 PM) —I rise this evening to speak as a representative of an electorate that is going to be directly impacted by Labor’s north-south pipeline. I am particularly proud that on this side of the House we are taking a strong stand against this pipeline—a single decision made by the state Labor government in Victoria that will have the greatest negative impact on country Victoria, particularly in north and north-east Victoria. The premise upon which the opposition oppose the pipeline is simple: we believe that it is unacceptable for water to be diverted from a stressed river catchment so that it can be piped to a capital city. We find it unacceptable that, as local farmers in my electorate struggle with the harsh and prolonged drought, the government wishes to steal water from these drought ravaged catchments.

This is Labor’s pipeline. Steve Bracks created it and now John Brumby has to implement it. It was state Labor’s creation because they failed to invest in adequate water infrastructure, and now they want to punish our agricultural industries and steal our water. This is state Labor’s invention but it is about to become federal Labor’s political death knell for the Murray-Darling. In other words: John Brumby’s policy plaything will highlight Kevin Rudd’s imprimatur for the self-destruction of the Murray-Darling. The Prime Minister has to take, and will take, personal responsibility for this pipeline—after all, the buck stops with him, we keep getting told—if these amendments are not passed. If Labor buckle and pass the bill in its current form, as they probably will, and side with the Victorian Labor Party and their mates, Labor members opposite will have shown that they stand for the destruction of the Murray-Goulburn system and authorise a project to take between 75 and 100 billion litres of water from this already stressed system.

The minister ignored detailed analysis of the submissions regarding referral to the EPBC Act. He gave it the green light. He and his Labor colleagues opposite can now stand up and be counted. They can go along with the Victorian government’s line or they can take a stand for the Murray-Darling Basin, which is highly unlikely. They need to decide whether to use their numbers to stand up for farmers and water users in our region and the environment or simply endorse state Labor’s flawed agenda, which will devastate farmers, residents and families right across my and other electorates. But, as we have seen from this federal Labor government, bailing out their state mates from the poor decisions they have made is a pattern that they will probably follow.

You can see the embarrassment on federal Labor politicians’ faces when they are called on to defend the pipeline proposal. When the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, was on the ABC’s Q&A program, he said that Labor’s pipeline was necessary because it was for drinking water for humans in Melbourne. This is blatantly untrue, because the pipeline will only redirect water from our food-growing region to be flushed down toilets and to go over cars, down gutters and onto lawns in Melbourne. It is also worth noting that the Labor Party made an election promise in Victoria to not take water from our farmers north of the divide, from the Goulburn and the Murray. These rivers are under pressure and they know it. Farmers are crying out for assistance and all that state and federal Labor can offer them is a ridiculous plan to steal their water. Have members opposite not read the recent CSIRO report or the recent Murray-Darling sustainable yield report? This information highlights the severe stress that these systems currently face, yet the Labor Party think it is appropriate to drain water away from this system. Labor’s pipeline to Melbourne is a disaster in waiting. Even Victoria’s Auditor-General has expressed concern at the handling of the project and its intent. The message for Labor is clear: the drought is not yet over and our water storages are still low. There is very little chance of there being any significant water savings over the next three years, meaning that this pipeline project could well go down in history as nothing more than an expensive white elephant.

To make matters worse, the Victorian government are trying to portray as criminals the country residents against the pipeline. The north-south pipeline is the single most disastrous policy put forward by the Victorian Labor government, and let me tell you: there is some competition for that label. It has been condemned by farmers and residents across the north-east and has even been vehemently opposed by the 2007 Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, and Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, on environmental grounds. Yet the Labor government continue to arrogantly push ahead with it, demonstrating how truly out of touch they are. I call on members opposite to take a stand against the north-south pipeline, put the welfare of rural and regional Australia ahead of toeing the party line and stop defending the government in Victoria. Winning an election does not mean that they have carte blanche to destroy the natural resources and the local communities in country Victoria. Show some courage and support the opposition’s amendments. (Time expired)