Ag Minister gives a broadside to vote-hungry politicians

Maranoa MP has had enough of vote-hungry politicians.

Maranoa MP has had enough of vote-hungry politicians.

Firstly there was Greens' Senator Sarah Hanson-Young telling Queensland farmers they were "flourishing" at the expense of their southern cousins.

Then a few days later Senator Rex Patrick came to town coming to an almost divine understanding of the Murray-Darling Basin while he flew through the clouds over the Macintyre River.

His Eureka moment?

Ban cotton exports.

Well the Member for Maranoa and Australia's Minister for Agriculture and Water, David Littleproud and regional farmers have had enough.

He has come out with a blistering broadside at politicians who are using farmers and their communities as political fodder.

It came after Labor introduced a Bill into the Senate to axe the cap on water buybacks.

"A number of city politicians have moved to use farmers as a political weapon to raise their profiles in an election year," he said on Wednesday.

"When farmers across the country feel their most vulnerable from drought and flood they’re being attacked for politicians who have relevance deprivation.

"Politicians should understand they’re playing with real people’s lives."

Border rivers farmers and communities are "sick and tired" of being used as a political football according to Border Rivers Food and Fibre Executive Officer, Tim Napier.

"This move by the Federal opposition is purely a political manoeuvre and we are sick and tired of the political games being played using us as the ball.

"We know that this will continue while there are election campaigns going on.

"From our perspective the removal of the cap on buybacks will remove the one protective mechanism from the collateral damage that results from federal buybacks.

"Water recovery can still occur in ways that don’t impact as much on our small rural communities, but the removal of the cap on buyback means that more recovery will occur in the way that does.

"Mr Burke seems to be pandering to his state colleagues who are running hard on water issues in the Lower Darling, where they are running a candidate in the seat of Barwon.

"There is still plenty of capacity remaining for buyback to continue with only 1200GL recovered by buybacks to date and the cap is set at 1500GL," Mr Napier said.

Mr Littleproud said farmers and communities were under attack.     

“The Labor Party has moved to axe the cap on water buybacks; Centre Alliance wants to ban cotton exports and the Greens are aiming to create Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

“We’ve just had a Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The Greens had a chance in September to put a disallowance on the Northern Basin Review but didn’t, so this is nothing more than a cheap stunt

"Farmers and basin communities finally had certainty after almost 10 years of argument when all states agreed in December on the neutrality test to recover water. But the Greens want to rip that away for a political witch hunt.

“The so-called Centre Alliance’s plan to end cotton exports would cost 10,000 jobs and would not put an extra drop of water into the river system. Farmers would use that same water to grow another less profitable crop.

“Some 90 per cent of our cotton is exported so Centre Alliance’s export ban would shut the whole industry down. Further, 90 per cent of Australia’s 1200 cotton farms are family owned and they produce 80 per cent of our cotton. Country people cannot risk Centre Alliance getting the balance of power because they’ll cost us 10,000 jobs.

“Centre Alliance claims exporting cotton is like exporting water because water is used to produce cotton. Well here’s a lesson for Centre Alliance: almost every farm export requires water and Australia exports two thirds of its farm produce. Australia’s economy would collapse without farm exports. Using water to grow things is called farming and feeding the nation. Does Centre Alliance want to ban all farming?

“Labor’s move to axe the 1500 gigalitre cap on water buybacks means it could buy back a whopping 650 gigalitres from rural communities, costing potentially thousands of jobs.

“Labor is introducing a Bill in the Senate today aiming to axe the cap on water buybacks in the Basin.

“Labor wants to start water buybacks and slash rural jobs again; the Coalition wants to save water by modernising infrastructure and save rural jobs.

“Buying back more water from rural communities kills jobs in those communities. Farmers with less water grow less food and employ less people.

“Labor hasn’t learned the lessons from when it was last in Government, when it smashed rural employment with water buybacks.

“It’s better to recover the remaining water through upgrading infrastructure so less water is lost.

“For instance, if we build a pipe where there was a leaky drain, the water we save can be given to the environment without taking it from a farmer. We protect jobs, we protect food production and we protect Basin communities.”

The background according to Mr Littleproud:

Economic analysis done for the Northern Basin Review, a key part of the Basin Plan, found taking 70GL from northern basin farmers would cost 200 jobs. There was bipartisan acceptance of this analysis and the Northern Basin Review became law.

Around 2,100 gigalitres of the 2,750 gigalitres to be recovered for the Basin Plan has been recovered. Around 1250GL has been recovered by water buybacks direct from farmers (mostly under Labor), so a Labor Government could potentially recover another 650GL through buybacks.

Labor’s Senate move aims to remove the 1500GL cap on buybacks altogether.