Bravo John Madigan
John Madigan, independent Federal Senator for Victoria. Statement from Parliament House on August 14 2015.
I am here with my crossbench colleagues today to send Mr Turnbull a message – a clear message about a crucial issue.
The fact that I am here with my crossbench colleagues is a clear signal to you all of the importance of this issue.
We are not speaking lightly. This is not a stunt.
Since his appointment, the Prime Minister has been telling Australians we are entering some new age of political Aquarius.
He tells us we have a 21st century government.
Last month Mr Turnbull promised us – no, he guaranteed us – the best policy his government can formulate to meet the challenges of today.
Mr Turnbull also said there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.
This is an extraordinary boast – and it is not inaccurate.
Today we are calling on the Prime Minister to address urgently the crisis in the Murray Darling Basin.
The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the most productive food and fibre regions of Australia.
It produces 45 per cent of Australia’s irrigated agricultural product.
The Murray Darling Basin, which covers the states of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, as well as the ACT, is home to 2.1 million Australians.
The Basin is an essential part of Australian agriculture.
What happens in the Basin impacts the rest of Australia.
And right now, because of two factors, this critically important region is a tinderbox. We are, without exaggeration, on the verge of a national crisis.
Firstly, the price of temporary water has sky-rocketed to $300 per megalitre.
In comparison, it was almost 30 per cent cheaper last month.
Farmers tell me their business is unsustainable.
There is a water market in Australia that is out-of-control and being manipulated.
You can buy and sell water like shares.
Water trading has become an insiders’ market of corruption and back-room deals.
And farmers can’t compete.
Second, Australian farmers are facing a scorching end to the year as the threat of drought from a very large El Nino intensifies.
This, combined with the Murray Darling Basin Plan, has created a perfect storm for our agricultural sector, ladies and gentleman.
People are walking off farms. People are committing suicide. This is the early death throes of one of our most important farming regions.
And our prime minister, the former Minister for Water, seems to us be unaware.
What is it we want?
First, we need immediate reform of the 2007 Water Act. This is urgent. It must be amended to give equal consideration to the economic and social consequences as well as the environment.
Second, that Prime Minister Turnbull must give Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce full responsibility for the water portfolio. The link between agriculture and water is indisputable.
And third, as a matter of urgency the Prime Minister must pause the Plan, including buy-backs, pending conclusion and reporting of the Senate inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin Plan.