18 October 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (10:54): I speak in opposition to this amendment, particularly to item 1A in the member for Indi’s amendment. An easy solution will fix this problem by taking the water from somewhere else, so take it from the northern basin. The northern basin is an ephemeral system that traditionally floods and goes dry. Water in the northern basin, by the way, is one of the biggest employers of Aboriginal people. We’ve heard a lot in the last month or two about how we care about our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, while we might take the water away for places like Moree, Brewarrina, Burke Narrabri, Wee Waa, Gunnedah, Warren, Narromine, Dubbo. All of these towns rely on water from the northern basin. The reason they grow the crops they grow in the northern basin is that it is an ephemeral stream. I also represent the lakes at Menindee. Are we going to drain the lakes at Menindee more quickly to fulfil that 450-gigalitre promise to South Australia? You can’t send the water back upstream, so have you been out and spoken to the people at Menindee about how this amendment will help drain those lakes quicker?
I have been in this place for a long time. This is not my first rodeo when it comes to the water debate in this place. But I’ve got to say I’ve never seen before such a turning-away. At least for the first go around, when Minister Burke came up with this policy, there were some safeguards and there was a bit more balance. I actually supported the first Basin Plan. The 450 extra gigs that came in later was not part of the plan. I’ve never supported that, and now we have the member for Indi saying: ‘That’s fine, leave my area alone. We’ll take it from up in the northern basin.’ Incidentally, the Parkes electorate represents a third of the northern basin. My community has already been gutted by this. I suggest that the members might like to go and visit Collarenebri and see what happens there when a hundred jobs are lost, largely Indigenous jobs. Go to Toorale station and see what it’s like at Bourke when a hundred jobs and 10 per cent of the ratepayers at Bourke Shire Council are removed. Go to Warren and see what happened when the water was purchased out of there, the businesses that have closed down and the empty streets.
I will not take this lying down. The people of the northern basin have got just as much right to exist. The farmers in my electorate grow more food and fibre per megalitre of water and litre of diesel than anywhere else in the world. They are the most efficient users of water, and they have already taken significant cutbacks. They are very efficient, and I cannot support this amendment.