For several years we have been asking politicians to stop playing their silly games with people’s livelihoods, but they refuse to listen, says Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar.
She is incensed with the latest political banter between federal Water Minister Keith Pitt and NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey, after they were told Australia would run out of locally-grown rice for domestic consumption in December.
“If we had true leadership, the Water Ministers would be collaborating to find a solution. They would work with our communities to get not just water for rice, but all our staple foods, which are grown by farmers struggling with debt.
“Instead, they blame each other and refuse to address a growing national crisis. It’s a disgrace,” Mrs Scoullar said.
When asked to comment on the rice shortage, Mr Pitt repeated a previous line that “you can’t take water from one part of the basin and put it somewhere else” and told NSW Water Minister Pavey to use the state’s emergency reserves.
Ms Pavey called on the Commonwealth to underwrite an opening water allocation for southern NSW irrigators and claimed her government was “already shaking every bucket to see what we have left … to stop the collapse of these industries”.
Mrs Scoullar suggested it was time to “stop your silly games and deliver solutions”.
“The NSW Government is holding more water in reserve than in previous years, so there is nothing stop it providing an opening allocation. The Commonwealth could share transmission losses between production and environment.
“Or it could follow the original advice of former Prime Minister John Howard, the architect of the Basin Plan, who said before it was legislated that the plan would allow water to be traded back to food producers in drier than expected periods.”
Mrs Scoullar said food producers in the NSW Murray region were especially disappointed with Water Minister Pitt, who had not effectively engaged so he could learn about his complex portfolio, yet was prepared to echo false claims that there is no water available.
“Our biggest storage, Dartmouth Dam, is virtually at 50 per cent capacity which is a massive two million megalitres, with a wet winter forecast. That hardly constitutes ‘no water available’.
“We are calling on both Ministers, on behalf of suffering farmers and communities, to stop this ridiculous bickering and take positive steps to provide our farmers with water, so they can grow food for Australian tables and help our nation at a time of crisis,” Mrs Scoullar said.