At a time when Australia needs to boost productivity and manufacturing, why are we strangling one of the nation’s most vital industries?
This is the question being asked by the community-based Speak Up Campaign, which wants governments to improve water management so our farmers can grow more food.
“We’ve had lots of rhetoric around the need to boost our country’s productivity, but what are we actually doing about it?” Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall asked.
“Governments at state and federal level are not looking at easy solutions that can have immediate benefit, which is frustrating for our farmers and the local communities that rely on them.
“At the moment we have our major storages Hume Dam at 70 per cent capacity and Dartmouth at nearly 60 per cent, and their levels are continuing to rise with good spring rains.
“Yet in the NSW Murray region, where my family operates a dairy farm, we are on a ridiculously low 17 per cent water allocation, following years of zero and three per cent.
“Nearby I have farmers who traditionally grow rice. If you give them water certainty they will increase the size of their crop – this will not only grow this staple food for Australian and international consumption, but will also provide a huge boost for the town of Deniliquin.
“With a big rice crop the SunRice mill at Deniliquin – the largest in the southern hemisphere – can reopen and provide up to 150 jobs. It is so obvious that there will be multiple benefits, yet governments fail to act. They talk, but they don’t act,” Mr Marshall said.
He said since the Federal Budget was delivered last week there has been non-stop talk from the Morrison Government about job creation.
“In regional communities like ours, job creation occurs when farmers can grow food and fibre. To maximise their production they must have water. In past years we have had appalling water management, with massive waste and environmental damage.
“When our state and federal governments show the courage and commitment to fix the mess they have created, I’ll be convinced that they are serious about ensuring there are jobs for all Australians.
“But if they continue in the same vein we have seen, unfortunately it’s hard to believe they are fair dinkum about jobs and prosperity in regional areas,” Mr Marshall said.