Ms LEY (Farrer) (15:41): In amongst the towering hysteria from the opposition spokesperson for water, the member for Kingston, in listening to this broadcast one would be forgiven for asking: where is it all coming from? What’s happened? Have there been some extraordinary systemic developments in the corridors of power in Canberra?
There has actually been one Four Corners program. I do not blame Four Corners, because they are the media and they do what they do—as we know. What I do blame is the Labor Party, because they are no friends of rural Australia. They are no friends of the farmer and they are no friends of the irrigator. I have to start with one positive for the member for Watson: their limp defence of irrigators. What about your irrigation communities?
Mr Keogh interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Burt is warned!
Ms LEY: But we know you don’t care and that you never cared. We remember when you came into our irrigation communities in 2009, outside the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and you launched the biggest buyback. You talk about northern New South Wales: what about Toorallie Station? What about the extraordinary amount of Commonwealth money that was spent there? I suggest you go and have a look. What will you see? Nothing. Feral animals, no fences, irrigation communities who once depended on that water and local government areas with families and communities completely let down by the actions of previous Labor governments.
I want to make it very clear that where something has been done wrong, it should be corrected. No question. The Deputy Prime Minister said that; every one of my colleagues would say that. Every one of my colleagues would acknowledge that if you break the rules you pay the penalty. But the federal government doesn’t run the rivers in New South Wales. We don’t do the measuring. We don’t do the metering. What about the constitution? Constitutional responsibility has five governments sitting around the table at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council because the states have not given their responsibility to the Commonwealth. We do not control what they do. We work with them in partnership.
This is a political stunt based on a Four Corners program. Nobody on this side of the House has forgotten how Four Corners closed down the pastoral industry in northern Australia and broke the hearts of so many. No-one has forgotten that. I’m not blaming Four Corners, I’m blaming the Labor Party, because it was Julia Gillard, a previous Labor Prime Minister, who took that action. And the member for Watson is not out there in the basin talking to our communities—the member for Murray, the member for Broad or any of us. He is not talking to us. What he is doing, is that he is sitting in his office. He is making statements like, ‘The entire reform is in jeopardy; it’s a game changer’. He has even launched on his web site an e-petition: ‘Save the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’!
I know he is an intelligent person and I know that he actually realises this has nothing to do with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
It’s on foot, it’s underway and it’s happening. This has to do with the possible breaking of rules in a local irrigation system in New South Wales, entirely controlled by the state of New South Wales, with an entirely appropriate response by the New South Wales minister within 24 hours. But what is Labor doing? They are sitting there creating political scares. They never leave their electorates or this building to try and represent rural Australia. It’s a shame. A party that claims its roots are under the Dig Tree in Barcaldine and in the shearing sheds of Western Queensland, a party that once said it had a connection with the rural heart, soul and spirit of this country, has completely lost it. What you really need to do, member for Watson, is step out of inner Sydney and come and talk to the irrigators I represent—which you once used to do. They didn’t think you are a bad fellow; they thought you were a lot better than your predecessor. But they will not forgive you for what you did. And they also recognise the truth in what we are seeing here right now—that you have confected motions in the Senate, hysteria in the House and a whole lot of nonsense around one program of untested allegations which will be sorted out, confirmed and evaluated, which has had all the appropriate action taken.
If you cared about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, you would give some confidence to that plan today. You would give some confidence to the irrigators that we represent and say to them that we understand that the plan is in all our interests, so we’re here doing the hard yards; we’re out there working. Reform is difficult. We’ve got those states around the table. We’ve got the ministerial council to agree to the sustainable diversion limit projects. We’re moving to the next stage. There’s really good valuable work done. In one of the remarks that one of your members made you could have noted that, you could have recognised that; and you could have supported farmers, rural Australia and irrigated agriculture, which contributes $15 billion to this country every year. A third of all the agricultural production in Australia is from irrigated agriculture. (Time expired)