By JOHN DOOLEY
DURING her recent visit to Wentworth last week, Member for Farrer Sussan Ley weighed into the discussion regarding recent allegations that vast amounts of water was being diverted to large irrigators in the upper reaches of the Barwon and Darling rivers to the detriment of downstream users.
Ms Ley, PICTURED, said that while the allegations, made on the ABC’s Four Corners program, were concerning, the NSW Government’s enquiry, headed by retired Australian National Water Commission Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Matthews, had to be allowed to run its course.
The Federal Government is awaiting the outcome of NSW’s independent inquiry into the allegations of irrigators illegally pumping environmental water, with Federal Water Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, maintaining it is a State issue.
“The areas where the water has been allegedly taken from isn’t in my electorate, so I don’t actually know what the truth is,” Ms Ley said. “I would always treat with caution what the ABC’s Four Corners program alleges, we saw the devastating effects from a knee jerk reaction by the Labor government when reacting to the program’s report on the live cattle export trade in the Northern Territory.
“It decimated the industry and northern Australia still hasn’t recovered.”
The issue has prompted South Australian Water Minister, Ian Hunter, to call for a judicial inquiry, while others are demanding a Royal Commission.
Mr Hunter branded Mr Joyce’s reaction to the allegations “a National Party cover-up”.
Meanwhile, local stakeholders and Councils in our region have been voicing their concerns, which has seen a moratorium on the pipeline to Broken Hill being imposed.
“It isn’t an outright call to ban the building of the nearly half a billion dollar project, but rather to put it on hold until we know what is happening with the water availability in the system,” Mildura Mayor Glenn Milne explained.
“Concerns about a pipeline lie in the fact that a viable business plan hasn’t been developed to support that case for it, and there is a view that if adequate water is available upstream to provide sustainable flows to the Menindee Lakes (providing it isn’t siphoned off from the Barwon and Darling rivers upstream), then building the pipeline may not be as vital as it is being portrayed.”
Broken Hill’s Mayor Darriea Turley, having earlier called for an urgent inquiry, led the charge at the Council’s meeting to put the pipeline project on hold, with her fellow councillors voting almost unanimously to endorse this position
On a positive note, Ms Ley said that rural and regional Australia had a promising future, and while water availability was key to this region’s sustainability, the full implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan was pivotal to this being achieved.
“We are seeing an increase in the migration to regional hubs like Mildura, Albury, Wagga and Dubbo, and that will then flow on to smaller towns,” she said.
“Commodity prices by and large have been strong, and the sector is beginning to benefit from stronger demand for our produce from overseas consumers, particularly Asia.”
Ms Ley was asked to comment on her government’s continual poor showing in the polls, and was even asked what action they can take to be competitive at the next election.
“The polls tell me that people are losing faith in politics, for a lot of people politicians are not their favourite people, but they quite like their local members, and I am always enormously encouraged by the response I get from people I meet throughout my electorate,” she said.
“I am listening to them and to their concerns and they are all valid, therefore we must work harder to win people’s trust.”