This Federal Election comes at a pivotal moment for irrigation farming, and agriculture. Farmers are facing water insecurity from a devastating dry climate, but also a testing political climate.
On Election Day, it is important that irrigation farmers make informed decisions about which parties have policies that will support our farmers, our water security, and the health of our river systems and communities.
We took the priorities we heard from our irrigation farmers to Canberra, and asked political parties for their response. We are pleased to have heard back from the Liberal Party, The Nationals, and the Labor Party.
The below snapshot is your guide to where the major parties stand on the priority issues for irrigation farmers. Whilst we endeavour to ensure this is highly accurate, we also encourage you to read the full response from each party below for more information.
1. Apply rules of access and security consistently across water products regardless of ownership. Long term reliability of products must not be undermined through policy implementation.
Labor will get the Murray Darling Basin Plan back on track.
Labor supports a well-functioning water market that access and security it provides.
Our full policy is [HERE]
The Morrison Government recognises the importance of certainty to irrigators and communities in the Murray-Darling Basin. Central to this is certainty around the implementation of the Basin Plan.
Through the delivery of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism and the Northern Basin Review – both committed to as part of the Basin Plan 2012 – we have ensured that equivalent environmental outcomes will be met through more efficient water management that reduces the need to recover even more water from irrigators and their communities.
A core element of the Water Act 2007 and the Basin Plan 2012 is the need for implementation of water reform not to impact on water reliability for entitlement holders. This is as important for environmental water holders as it is for irrigators. The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring that the rules are fair and apply equally. Changes to the reliability of water entitlements create uncertainty for irrigators and the environment and would only undermine the environmental, social and economic objectives of the Basin Plan.
“We will… return more water to the river… Less water for corporate irrigators; more water in the Murray Darling”.
2. Measured implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan for stability.
Labor will invest over $120 million to:
- Ensure more water for the Murray Darling Basin by guaranteeing delivery of the 450GL, removing the cap on buybacks and reverting to the original socio-economic test in the Basin Plan relating to the 450GL.
- Restore integrity in the system by initiating a Commission of Inquiry into the purchase of certain water entitlements from Eastern Australia Agriculture Pty Ltd and moving the compliance division of the Murray Darling Basin Authority to the proposed EPA.
- Ensure the science is central to decision making and climate change impacts are understood.
- Improve transparency by investing for Basin-wide real time monitoring and re-establishing the Sustainable Rivers Audit.
- Help fish recovery.
Support cultural water and First Nations’ leadership in the Basin.
Our full policy is [HERE]
The Coalition is committed to a measured but full implementation of the Basin Plan. Since 2013, we have taken a number of actions to give communities certainty, meet the environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan and reduce the social and economic impacts of water recovery including:
- Legislating a 1500 GL cap on water buybacks, which the Labor Party proposes to repeal;
- Prioritising water infrastructure investment over damaging and indiscriminate water buybacks;
- Delivering a 605 GL reduction to the recovery target for the southern Basin through the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism that secures equivalent environmental outcomes through improved system management;
- Completing and implementing the scientific Northern Basin Review, which resulted in a 70 GL reduction to the northern Basin recovery target;
- Providing more than $20 million in additional support to Basin communities most impacted by the Murray Darling Basin Plan; and
- Securing all states agreement to a social and economic neutrality test for the recovery of the required 450 GL in additional water for the environment.
We recognise that there is more to do and that significant implementation challenges lie ahead. We are committed to addressing those challenges with communities and to understanding the changes that have taken place in the Murray-Darling Basin since 2012.
That is why on 8 April 2019, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon David Littleproud MP, announced a broad-based assessment of the social and economic conditions in the Basin that will be undertaken by an independent panel. This assessment will give communities the opportunity to share their experiences and inform the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s 2020 Basin Plan Evaluation.
And we have added to this by announcing that the Coalition would if re-elected commission the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to undertake a review of southern Basin water markets.
The Greens will lift the cap on water buybacks and establish a Royal Commission into the Basin Plan.
3. Respond and adapt to a changing climate of water availability by investing in innovative infrastructure and RD&E for water storage and use.
Labor’s plans include R&D.
Excerpts from our policy are:
- Labor will ensure reviews of the Basin Plan and its implementation include a fresh audit of the latest science and information, compared to what informed the Basin Plan. This will include the latest data on climate change, evaporation and inflows.
- Labor will commission CSIRO to re-run the Sustainable Yield study with a longer time frame. The original Sustainable Yields study was to 2030, the new study would be to 2050 and will demonstrate what will happen to environmental health in the face of climate change. This work will inform reviews of the Basin Plan.
- Labor will allocate $6 million to an independent study of how climate change is likely to affect the Basin and RAMSAR sites across the Basin. This will include the impact of sea level rise on the Coorong and lower lakes as well as other key sites like the Ovens, Menindee, Macquarie marshes and red gum forests.
Provide $20 million to expand research on the Murray-Darling Basin for better water and environmental management as well as examine how climate change will impact the Basin. This work will address gaps in our knowledge as recommended by the Academy of Science and Professor Vertessy
The Morrison Government is committed to delivering the water infrastructure of the 21st century.
$3.3 billion is on the table to fast track the investigation and development of new water infrastructure. $1.3 billion in grant funding is being provided through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF) and S2 billion through the National Water lnfrastructure Loan Facility.
Through this funding we have already made commitments to projects that will expand agricultural production, provide improved water security and reliability and potentially increase the area under
irrigation. A special $72 million drought round was launched last year and a further round of the NWIDF closed on 1 April 2019.
On 30 April 2019 the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Michael McCormack announced that the re-elected
Morrison Government will establish the National Water Grid – a statutory authority that will be responsible for the strategic planning and project management for water policy and water
infrastructure right across the nation. The new agency would provide for better and coordinated national planning and delivery of water infrastructure.
At the farm and industry level, we are working with our rural industries, investing over $800 million in rural research and development (R&D) corporations. Through this investment, R&D corporations are investing in improved resilience and climate change adaption including improvements in water saving technologies. Through the Government’s $134 million Smart Farms Program we are also supporting individuals, organisations and broader industry partnerships to develop, trial and implement – including through extension activities – new and innovative technologies and practices.
The adoption of new technologies and on-farm infrastructure has also been supported through the tax system with a $25,000 instant tax write-off for small businesses with a turnover of up to $10
million. In the 2019-20 Budget, the Morrison Government announced this would be raised to $30,000 and eligibility increased to businesses with a turnover of $50 million.
The Greens will create a Centre for Sustainable Agriculture – an RD&E agency focused on identifying and extending best practice.
The Greens have committed to match the Coalition commitment of $100 million per annum for drought preparedness.
4. Invest in measures which improve the transparency of water management and water use to build public trust and reach world-leading basin-scale water monitoring and data availability.
Labor will establish a Commission of Inquiry into the 2017 purchase of certain water entitlements from Eastern Australia Agriculture Pty Ltd, under the Royal Commissions Act.
- Labor will commission an independent review, by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), into the governance and conduct of the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), to report to Government within six months.
- Labor will work to make the MDBA more transparent. We will give the public access to real time metering and monitoring, to federal modelling, details of supply projects and all relevant information as it becomes available. Improving transparency is critical for the public to regain confidence, to maintain integrity in the system and to show outcomes.
- Labor will audit floodplain harvesting and crack down on illegal structures that have been built in the Basin to divert water. This work will be informed by the work of the Northern Basin Commissioner and the reviews into fish kills in the Darling, south of Menindee.
- Labor will reinstate the Sustainable Rivers Audit
Labor will move the MDBA’s compliance division in to the newly created Federal Environmental Protection Agency.
lrrigators and communities have an expectation that the rules that govern water use will be followed. Compliance and enforcement is fundamental to building confidence in the irrigation
industry and to ensuring that water is monitored and accounted for. The Coalition have already announced a range of measures to support improved accountability and monitoring of water across the northern and southern Basin. These include an additional $9.1 million to strengthen the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s compliance functions and additional funding to improve hydrometric and satellite monitoring.
In response to the Final Report of the lndependent Panel into the 2018-19 Lower Darling Fish Deaths, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon David Littleproud MP has announced since 10 April this year more than $90 million in funding including:
- $25 million rebate to irrigators for water meters in the northern Basin.
- $26 million to improve river measurement and satellite monitoring in the northern Basin.
- $55 million for live-streaming and satellite monitoring of rivers that can be viewed on the internet in real-time.
These measures will improve data and understanding of the northern basin, provide transparency and build community confidence in the management of water resources.
The Greens will establish a Royal Commission into the Basin Plan.
We will stand up to corruption in the Murray Darling basin to stop water theft.
5. Invest in reliable, efficient and cost-effective energy solutions.
The Morrison Government is committed to lower power prices while keeping the lights on.
We understand rising power prices are hurting Australian families struggling with the cost of living and preventing small businesses from employing more people and expanding.
That is why we are taking strong action to lower prices and we are already seeing results. By mid-2019, over one million Australian families and small businesses will benefit from electricity prices falling by up to 15 per cent and from the ban on sneaky late payment fees.
While keeping the economy strong and returning the Budget to surplus, we are also providing $365 million for Energy Assistance Payments of $75 for singles and $125 for couples to four million eligible social security payment recipients – to help with their next power bill and cost of living expenses.
Our Fair Deal on Energy delivers affordable, reliable, 24/7 power to Australian families, businesses and communities, including:
- A price safety net to protect loyal customers and help families and small businesses make empowered and informed decisions about their energy plans;
- Big stick legislation to stop the big energy company rip-offs and banning sneaky late payment fees;
- Supporting reliable power by requiring energy companies to sign contracts guaranteeing enough energy to meet demand;
- Underwriting investment in new reliable power generation to improve competition, including Snowy 2.0, Battery of the Nation and a shortlist of reliable generation projects, which the ACCC forecasts will reduce wholesale power prices by more than 25 per cent.
We are reducing costs for households, businesses and community groups through investment in energy efficiency upgrades and advice, new building standards, opportunities for community groups to invest in solar and supporting regional communities to invest in local micro grid electricity systems.
Our policies deliver lower-cost electricity while also meeting our climate commitments and increasing renewable energy. Around one third of Australia’s electricity will come from renewables by the early 2020s.
The Morrison Government has a clear plan to reduce power prices for families and businesses.
The Greens have a strong and evidence-based plan for a rapid, managed transition to a renewable energy economy – one that will replace coal with renewables, build a new clean-energy export industry and create 180,000 new jobs.
The Greens will phase out coal, move to 100% renewables and deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy for homes, businesses and industry.
By investing in renewable technology we can harness all the energy we need to live a good life without drilling into the ground and risking our water supplies.
Under our plan, we will extend the ‘water trigger’ in our national environmental protection laws to cover all forms of gas extraction and protect farmers and their water sources.