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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10665

Ms KEAY (Braddon) (17:22): I welcome this motion put by the member for Murray, because irrigation projects do make a considerable difference in regional Australia and, of course, in my state of Tasmania. Deputy Speaker McVeigh, as you and I were on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources, we saw a lot of irrigation making a huge difference in regional Australia. It improves production, if it's used efficiently and effectively. It's something I think we'll all be able to take back to our respective states and state governments that report on water efficiency.

In my state of Tasmania, we have had significant investment in irrigation. The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in a recent submission to a legislative council inquiry into Tasmanian irrigation stated:

Notwithstanding that less than 10 per cent of the state's agricultural land is irrigated, it produces 55 per cent of the gross value of Tasmania's agricultural production.

Irrigated land is estimated to produce more than 10 times the value per hectare compared with improved agricultural land that was not irrigated.

In my electorate, irrigation supports the dairy industry and a large number of crops, including potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, berries, poppies and pyrethrum. Sadly, Mr Deputy Speaker, we didn't get to go to Tasmania to see some of this magnificent irrigation at work.

It is important to note that every single irrigation project that is currently operational in Tasmania is a Labor project delivered by Labor or planned by Labor. It was Labor under the leadership of Jim Bacon who launched Tasmania's water development plan in August 2001. It's not that well-known, but beyond the west coast of Tasmania there is a large rain shadow and, even as we speak, some parts of the east coast of Tasmania are drought declared.

Labor's first project was to build the Meander Dam in the northern Midlands. In 2008, Labor established the Tasmanian Irrigation Pty Ltd. Tasmania Irrigation developed schemes as public-private partnerships, working with private landholders to establish how much water was wanted. The cost of building a scheme was shared between the public and private sectors. It has been enormously successful. Tasmania Irrigation progress the schemes from feasibility assessment through to the construction and operational stages. State and federal Labor contributed $220 million for Tranche One projects. There are now eight operational schemes from Tranche One throughout Tasmania. At the time, Labor's irrigation program represented a public-private commitment of over $310 million.

As stated earlier, these schemes change regional dynamics. For example, in Tasmania's Midlands scheme, farms reported that they would graze sheep for wool at around $200 a hectare, but with access to a reliable, secure supply of water they could switch to growing peas at $2,000 a hectare or poppies, worth anywhere from $2½ thousand to $4,000 per hectare. If you drive down the Midlands of Tasmania, you see the landscape has actually changed quite considerably.

In my electorate, at Labor's Dial Blythe scheme at South Riana, 44 farmers grow crops, including pyrethrum and poppies, and now have highly productive dairy operations. The Dial Blythe area once lacked surety of water, and this scheme now resolves that issue. Tranche 2 schemes are now either complete or under construction. Some credit is due to previous state and federal governments for continuing to roll out Labor's vision for tranche 2 schemes in the Southern Highlands, Swan Valley and Duck River, which is in my electorate, but that's where the credit seems to end. This coalition government was elected in 2013 and the Tasmanian Liberal government in 2014, yet it wasn't until late January of this year and the lead-up to the state election that the state Liberal government announced tranche 3 for Tasmania's irrigation—almost four years of inaction and lack of vision. For the coalition it's five years of inaction and no vision.

Tasmanian Irrigation identified a number of tranche 3 projects, many of which are in my electorate: Detention, Don, Flowerdale, Harcus and Sassafras. In total, there are 10 projects, with an estimated cost of around $500 million, and I welcome the fact that, after years of doing nothing, the Tasmanian government has finally submitted an application to Infrastructure Australia for funding towards tranche 3. But I see this with a degree of cynicism that this has only happened in the lead-up to a federal election. If the state and federal governments were generally serious about building on Labor's work, this work should have been done some years ago. On this side of the House we have a proven record of delivering irrigation projects for Tasmania, and I am very confident that, if we are fortunate to be elected at the next federal election, Labor will continue to do just that.