Deputy PM: 'We're giving you water security not spin'

Deputy PM: 'We're giving you water security not spin'

Politics
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Opinion: As farmers rally for a second day outside Parliament House, calling for the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be axed, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says his government will deliver transparency in the water market.

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Opinion

Farmers and Basin communities deserve security, not spin, and that's what the Liberals and Nationals in Government is delivering.

In droughts and flooding rains, water is the most vital asset any country community can have.

It runs beyond the river banks and the irrigation channels and keeps shops, schools and sporting clubs alive beyond the bright city lights. And every one of those people who rely on it deserve a sensible plan to manage it.

So as the son of a generational farming family who's lived in a Basin community my whole life, I understand the frustration many have with the Basin Plan as it stands today.

I agree our country communities, their economies and the people beyond the farm gate must be considered equally alongside the environment. And I know constantly changing policies and expectations only complicates the situation.

That's why I voted against Julia Gillard's Basin Plan in 2012.

I put the farming families I represented from communities such as Leeton, Griffith and Coleambally before the politics of Canberra because the original Basin Plan used buybacks and environmental flows as the only lever to recover water.

I saw what the policy meant beyond the Parliament and I knew people deserved better.

This wasn't popular in Parliament at the time, but in voting against it I secured a commitment from the Liberals and Nationals that we would end water buybacks and invest in on-farm efficiencies instead.

And we have. We capped water buybacks in 2015 because it's lazy policy and it hurts country communities.

But this is only one piece of the puzzle.

The original Plan did nothing for transparency and for making sure productive water users got their fair share.

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That's why we've called in the competition watchdog to ensure transparency in the water market, examine farmers' concerns about speculators and changes in water use and make sure those who actually use the water for production - our world-class food and fibre - get the stability and certainty they deserve.

And it's why we have ended the talk and started building more dams. Again, something that never happened under the original Plan.

Because - just as you need states to come together to manage water in a way that works towards a balance - we know that drought response and better preparation needs willing partners too.

Part of our water policy means understanding that it just makes sense to capture and store water when it does fall to use in times it doesn't. And now that's happening.

There's $1 billion for dams in New South Wales. In October we agreed that - together with the NSW Liberals and Nationals - we will deliver a $650 million upgrade of Wyangala Dam in the state's Central West and a $480 million new Dungowan Dam near Tamworth.

And in Queensland, after much debate the State Government has come to the table and joined our investment in the Emu Swamp Dam in the Granite Belt.

This shows that by working together, putting farmers and their communities first, progress can be made in water policy.

Thanks to The Nationals in Canberra, farmers and country communities' needs are championed and we are - piece by piece - putting common sense into the Basin Plan and getting the job done to build dams and manage water in a smarter and fairer way.

Because the people and communities of regional Australia deserve it.

- Michael McCormack is The Nationals' Leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

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