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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10670


Ms RYAN (LalorOpposition Whip) (17:42): I'm pleased to follow the member for Wentworth on this motion, given that while he was the minister in charge he failed to deliver $10 million to the Werribee Irrigation District.

Mr Joyce: As a point of order, I take that as a compliment, or maybe a slip of the tongue. The member Wentworth has not at this point been decided. I do know that I am prime ministerial in my approach. Thank you very much.

Ms RYAN: The member for New England, as minister, failed to give $10 million to the Werribee South growers in my electorate. The irrigation system for Werribee South was developed in 1912 and had not been redeveloped since, until, of course, quite recently state Labor committed, under Minister Neville, to see to the redevelopment and refreshment of that irrigation, because it's been losing up to 30 per cent of the water going down those channels to Werribee South.

I put myself on the list today to speak on this important motion, because, of the $3 billion worth of vegetables, $180 million worth of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and fennel are produced in my electorate. It's a small pocket of the City of Wyndham called Werribee South, and vegetable growers began there in the 1920s when Italian migrants joined our community and began farming the area. They were joined, over time, by many from Greece, Macedonia and Albania.

Those farmers have now been there for generations. They have been agile and innovative in their work. They now do four crops a year on the soil in Werribee South, aided by groundwater as well as leaning into risk and taking recycled water and using the river water from the Werribee River. They have branched into hydroponics, transport and logistics, and export. I want to commend them for the generations of work they have done and give them a guarantee that this member for Lalor, like those before her, will commit to ensuring that this farming district remains a farming district and that their contribution to the vegetables for Australian consumption will be rewarded and will continue to the next generation. I particularly say that to the latest generation of these modern farmers now, young men and women committed to seeing these traditions continue as they find new modern ways to produce their crops. I commend them also for recent innovations with the direct employment of refugees in our community, particularly those from Burma, who are relishing the agricultural work that they are being directly employed by these farmers to do each day.

I stress again the role the Victorian state Labor government has played in ensuring that this terrific agricultural area continues—that is, in the modernisation of those channels. I welcome it. At the beginning of this process when I first approached the Victorian state water minister, Lisa Neville, we looked at the impact this was having on our river, the amount of water we were losing in the channels, what that meant to our irrigators and to our river and how we could best set this area up for future generations. It's about a $32 million spend. We've finished stage 1. We're onto stage 2. There is still an opportunity for this federal government to meet the contribution by the state government and to put in their $11 million contribution that would mean so much to growers in my area, who have taken it upon themselves to lean into risk, to invest in their farms over the last 10 years and to make a commitment long term into the future of this agricultural area. They understand how important it is. They have 40 kilometres of new pipeline to replace the old channels. I call on this government to support the growers of Werribee South and make a commitment to see the modernisation of this area so we can guarantee healthy lettuces, cauliflowers and new innovations like fennel going to market from Werribee South every week.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Gee ): The time allotted for this debate has expired.