There is increasing concern for the future of food and fibre production in Australia, with possible Federal Government intervention likely to have a severe negative impact.
Rural communities fear the Albanese Government will forge ahead with water buybacks under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, despite previous opposition to buybacks from both Labor and Coalition governments at state and federal level.
Until now, governments of various political persuasions have acknowledged that water buybacks cause considerable and unnecessary damage, both economic and social, to rural communities. They also limit food and fibre production, which leads to higher prices for Australian families at the supermarket.
Despite all this, Speak Up Campaign Deputy Chair Lloyd Polkinghorne says all indications suggest the Albanese Government, through the insistence of Water Minister Tanya Plibersek, is going to surge ahead with buybacks.
Describing it as “absolutely beyond comprehension”, he said the only conclusion that can be drawn by farmers and their local communities is that the government is prepared to make large productive regions in rural Australia the “sacrificial lambs” to appease capital city environmental lobby groups.
“There are numerous solutions and better options for implementing the Basin Plan, which have been explained to Ms Plibersek. While she has continually said ‘all options are on the table’, evidence to this point suggests the only one she is seriously considering is water buybacks, because they’re the quick and easy way.
“I live in Australia’s food bowl, and I suspect it’s about to be unnecessarily devastated as we watch politicians make decisions that totally lack logic and common-sense; it’s a bit hard to swallow,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
He said the Speak Up Campaign recently wrote to federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, asking him about Labor’s vision for the future of agriculture, rural communities and food producing industries. His response did not generate any level of confidence.
“There appears to be an increasing disconnect between our communities and the federal government,” Mr Polkinghorne said. “For starters, they do not seem to understand that protecting the environment and protecting farmers go hand in hand, as it is farmers who manage more than 50 per cent of the Australian landscape.
“Currently, too many policy decisions are made from those who are city born and bred and, with a lack of understanding around rural life, see farmers as the enemy. Instead of working with rural communities they want to take an autocratic approach, and this is not in our nation’s best interest.
“They see irrigation as a dirty word, but do not understand the potential of irrigated agriculture to play a major role in combatting climate change and protecting the environment by efficiently using water for the dual purpose of growing food and sustaining our rivers and wetlands.
“As a result of this political disconnect, our nation and its environment suffers because we are locked into an inflexible Basin Plan that is based on poor and outdated modelling, yet there is no political desire to fix its shortcomings, there’s no genuine community consultation and very little room for innovation, collaboration and experimentation,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
“But I can give our politicians and their advisers some free advice,” Mr Polkinghorne concluded. “The farmers that you see as the problem are actually the solution. Change your paradigm, abandon buybacks and work with rural communities, and together we can build a stronger and healthier nation.”