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  • Shelley Scoullar

Nation building policy needed

Australia needs inclusive, nation building water policy to protect environmental outcomes and a secure sustainable food supply in the face of climate change.

Representatives of communities from the Murray Darling Basin, including the traditional owners, alongside academics and parliamentarians gathered at the conference titled “The Future of the Murray Darling Basin, Lessons from History 2021” in Rutherglen Victoria.

Former federal MP Dr Sharman Stone noted that ironically the event marked the 27th anniversary of the COAG agreement made on February 25, 1994 in Hobart, which set a pathway for new Water Resource Policy entitled “framework for action”.

The two-day event concluded with two panel sessions led by community representatives from the Southern Murray Darling Basin who addressed a key theme on ‘Are Australia’s national water policies in the Murray Darling Basin working and appropriate for the future’.

They raised serious concerns that Australia is not equipped to protect its staple food security, the environment or cultural and social needs in the face of climate change with the current water management policies in place.

Panellists such as David Farley and Chris Brooks, who have a wealth of knowledge in commodity markets, concurred that recent imports of grains such as wheat and rice should have raised serious alarm bells in the nation’s capital.

In particular Mr Farley raised the very real issues which will impact the wallets of all Australians, the fact that food prices are likely to increase from 14% of the take home wage, to 27% of the take home wage if we do not change direction.

Darren De Bortoli from De Bortoli Wines argued we have farmers in the Basin who are sustainable, yet are being forced off the land whilst Governments are refusing to address the flawed assumptions of the Murray Darling Basin Plan- assumptions based on modelling using outdated basin inflows and flood data.

Attendees applauded Professor Max Finlayson, wetland ecologist when he stated that the MDBA made an error of judgement when they decided to delay including climate change modelling in the 2012 Basin Plan, despite being advised by experts that it was necessary.

An all female panel included Dr Stone, Member for Murray Helen Dalton and community advocates Debbie Buller, Jan Beer, Louise Burge, Sophie Baldwin and Shelley Scoullar.

The women believe everyday Australians would be appalled if they were aware of the government imposed dysfunctional water trade policy and squandering of taxpayers’ dollars which has seen vast volumes of water leave staple food producing regions.

They believe the average Australian would be outraged that foreign investors who own large volumes of our most precious natural resource, water, do not require an ABN and are not required to pay Capital Gains Tax when profiting from water trading. Nor would they be happy that over $9 billion of taxpayers’ funds have been spent on a plan which has allowed northern water Floodplain Harvesting to cause the disconnect of the Darling to the Murray.

Community leaders involved in the conclusion of the event united to develop a Rutherglen statement calling on a change to protect an asset which belongs to all Australians.

It reads: Australia needs inclusive, nation building policy which provides for social, economic and environmental needs, now and into the future, to ensure environmental outcomes and secure sustainable food supply in the face of climate change.




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