Moree has hosted Pollies on the Plains this week as Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton and local Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton step out of the office and onto the farm to hear firsthand, the real issues of the land.
Water Woes Before Parliament
First on the tour, Mr Dutton and Mr Coulton visited Hugh and Sarah Ball’s irrigation farm west of Moree, with the CEO of the Australian Irrigators Council and other local farmers, to discuss the prospective changes that are before parliament regarding the Murray Darling Basin Plan and its impacts.
“The proposal is that the water that can be taken for the environment can be purchased beyond the cap, that was agreed to in the previous plan as 400 gigalitres that previously could not be recovered without having an impact statement on environmental, social and economic grounds, that has been changed.” said Mark Coulton, Member for Parkes.
“There is concern that indiscriminate purchases of licences will have an impact on the broader community.”
“When water is removed it has a flow on effect, a lot of these farms are on flood plain and interconnected, so you can just take one farm out of the middle of a network of farms, that’s creates problems with the low of water and at flood times, the flood plain is very carefully managed”.
“There is concern on the viability of the cotton gin, that flows through to the jobs that are associated to that water in the local community, whether that is ag supply down to retailers and school and hospitals.
Mark Coulton has made his speech to the House of Representatives with a highlight on how city centric the hearing is, being held in Canberra and not on the ground it affects.
“We are very concerned about the changes,” said Mr Coulton.
“We have seen previously when water is removed, for instance with Collarenebri, with Collymongle Station with the water being purchased there some years ago and Toorale at Bourke, the economic flow to the community is quite severe.”
“The previous Murray Darling Basin plan has always been a bipartisan position and working through a consensus for the best outcome for the entire basin, this government has now going to use its numbers in the parliament to push through these changes that will have a devastating impact on the communities across the basin,”
“This is more ideologically driven; the Minister represents the middle of Sydney and her electorate and has no personal skin in the game.”
A backbench committee will be coming to Moree next week to meet with local business, irrigators, and other stakeholders, with the findings to go back to the Senate in November.
“At this stage the numbers look like they Government will get its way be we are working with the crossbench in the Senate to make amendments that would make this more palatable.”
Mr Dutton paid tribute to the farmers for their resilience and diversification to agriculture and farming and was keen to learn what is happening at the source.
“Thank you very much to Sarah and the Ball family for having us onto their amazing property.” Said Peter Dutton, Leader of the Opposition.
“They employ locals, they produce for our country, they provide support to many ancillary businesses who just couldn’t operate in towns like Moree without these sorts of farming operations, at the significant scale that they’ve got here and many other surrounding properties.”
“It’s great to be back in regional Australia, and it’s also important to be able to speak to Australians right across the country at a time where cost of living is impacting on every family and on every small business.”
This week’s visitor has been a warm welcome as our local member, Mark Coulton, continues to invite more politicians to the region, especially if it sists inside their portfolio.
“It is my job to help my colleagues who don’t live out here to understand the issues we are facing and providing the details you can only get by speaking to people on the ground.” Said Mark Coulton.
Inland Rail Hold Ups Cause for Concern
On the other side of town, the tour continued to Stuart and Lyndall Tighe’s property at Milguy, east of Moree.
The Tighe’s are marketing, selling and transporting grain and were eager to show off their operatio and the important of the Inland Rail being completed.
“The issue is a lot of businesses geared up under the assumption that one project would follow the other, instead the Inland Rail is actually 13 individual projects,” said Mark Coulton.
“There is now concern if the work doesn’t continue on people who have borrowed heavily and purchase trucks and equipment, they are going to be in financial difficulty and a lot of the local people, particularly a lot of indigenous people who were working on the rail line, that has all stopped now and this disruption will have an effect.”
“The sooner this project is completed the sooner the benefits to the community will flow on.”
Mark Coulton has addressed, and will continue to address parliament, inviting Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King to come see Australia’s backyard.
“We need them to understand what this delay is doing but as yet, the Minister hasn’t even visited the inland and certainly not in my electorate, which is a large portion of it, so it would be very difficult for her to make an informed decision when she hasn’t bene on the ground and seen what it needs.” said Mark Coulton.
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