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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1511..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Steve Larkham. The game against the Crusaders will be very difficult for them. I think we need to wish them all the best. The Brumbies are in with a big show. If they do not beat them, they can still make the finals. Even so, they will probably have to go back and play the Crusaders again the following week; so it is going to be very hard for them.

Whilst I normally do not have a huge regard for New South Wales, I know, having played rugby for many years, that they can be very difficult to beat. They are an Australian team and, if the Brumbies do not make it, I certainly hope they will, although the way they went against the Chiefs last week in a game they should have won was somewhat disappointing. But the Brumbies are still in with a big show. It is going to be very hard. I am sure that you will all join me in wishing them all the best as they approach the finals.

Murray-Darling Basin—rice production

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.03): Mr Speaker, last night's federal budget announcement about $500 million being allocated to the Murray-Darling Basin raised in my mind the problems caused by thirsty agricultural practices like those in the cotton and rice industries. The issue of rice production in Australia is a quagmire of debate and conflict of interest. Roughly, the two sides of the debate come down to those who feel that rice production in Australia is more important than the ecological future of the Murray-Darling Basin and those who think that the rice industry should use considerably less water or face the consequences.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, rice is Australia's most water-intensive industry, with an irrigated gross value of just $189 per megalitre of water used. For the benefit of the laymen amongst us, including me, that means that for every dollar's worth of rice produced in the husk 7,459 litres of water is needed. Such a figure in itself should be enough to close the debate on this issue, but I think that it probably needs further illumination and illustration.

That amount of water, 7,459 litres, is the equivalent of 11 Olympic-size swimming pools: 11 Olympic-size swimming pools for every kilo of rice produced in the water stressed Murray-Darling Basin. By contrast, for every dollar of wine produced 503 litres of water are used and for every dollar of fruit and vegetables produced 103 litres of water are used. Even those combined figures are roughly only eight per cent of the amount of water used in rice production. This crop surely fits the AFFA description of inefficient and inappropriate water use.

The rice industry has caused serious concern to me and many others in the community and I think that these concerns need to be addressed. Fundamentally speaking, rice is a primary product which naturally comes from the monsoon wetlands of Asia and has been applied to the thin soils of the arid plains of New South Wales. There has been undeniable success through increased yields per hectare since the 1970s, but at a cost to the environment and at a cost to future generations.

Cotton is Australia's next most prolific consumer of water, and 1,600 litres of water are required for every dollar of cotton produced. That is considerably less than for rice, but cotton growing is a practice which causes considerable concern in rural Australia. The pesticide use associated with cotton has huge impacts where there is run-off. The


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