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NFF calls on COAG to be fair and equitable about risk.



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News Release

NFF CALLS ON COAG TO BE FAIR AND EQUITABLE ABOUT RISK

18 June 2004 NR 63/04

The National Farmers’ Federation is concerned that one of the main aims of the National Water Initiative - delivering farmers secure water rights - will be overshadowed by the Living Murray and the need to deliver funding to address specific water issues in affected States.

The Australian Government has indicated that the first step of the Living Murray, which is worth $500 million, is subject to the successful signing of the National Water Initiative. The Deputy Prime Minister has also recently indicated that the National Water Initiative may contain funding from the Australian Government matched by the States to deal with water issues in affected States.

“NFF will continue to support the first step of the Living Murray and in our view this is an important adjunct to the National Water Initiative,” NFF President, Mr Peter Corish said. “We also support the need to address over-allocation and restore rivers to a healthy working condition.

“However, these activities do not deliver farmers secure rights over their water, therefore that does not deliver certainty for farmers, rural communities and the environment.” Mr Corish said.

NFF has made it very clear to the Australian Government since before the last election that our number one policy priority is to deliver farmers secure access over their land and water resources. Governments must get the framework for water management right for the benefit of all Australians.

“Unfortunately, the principles on risk assignment which COAG agreed to last August totally undermine the delivery of the security that farmers need over their water entitlements,” Mr Corish said. “This is one of the last major issues to be resolved for the National Water Initiative ahead of the COAG meeting on June 25.”

Mr Corish said the current COAG policy on risk sharing for changes due to bona fide improvements in science/ knowledge of a water system’s capacity is that farmers bear 100 per cent of the risk in the event of such changes.

“Governments are baulking at their responsibilities and seem happy enough to leave farmers with the bill - 100 per cent of the burden.” Mr Corish said.

“NFF has consistently rejected this approach since immediately after the August 2003 COAG. That is why we developed our third, a third, a third proposal.

“Put simply, what NFF wants is an ‘equal’ cost sharing arrangement that is fair and equitable between the Commonwealth, States and farmers.”

Mr Corish said an equitable risk assignment agreement was crucial to the rural sector’s future viability and to give farmers the confidence to invest in the latest efficient and sustainable technology.

“Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments will be presented with a ‘once only’ opportunity on June 25 to achieve reforms which will provide certainty and security for Australian farmers, the environment and regional communities,” Mr Corish said.

“NFF is determined to find a way forward to ensure that the issue of risk assignment does not prove a stumbling block to these vital national reforms.”

Contact: Mairi Barton, General Manager Public Relations, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 email: mbarton@nff.org.au

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