Page 1512 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2006

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overspraying that lands on other people’s properties means that often meat is contaminated and cannot be taken to market. The effects that it has on the ancient water of the Artesian Basin, which is used with such profligacy, is a matter of considerable concern.

The most outstanding example of how water is used for cotton production is the spectacular, for want of a better word, Cubby Station. My Liberal colleague in the Senate, Senator Bill Heffernan, stated recently:

In Queensland, the great national disgrace remains the water harvesting at Cubby Station which completely intercepts the water rights of downstream users.

The people downstream in the Darling are extremely disadvantaged. According to the Australian newspaper, while we in the ACT are paying in excess of $1.30 a kilolitre, the country’s largest irrigators in the Murray irrigation and Goulburn Valley are paying somewhere between 2c and 3c per kilolitre and, even worse, the owners of Cubby Station are paying 0.3c per kilolitre.

There are both economic and ecological implications for the continuing of rice and cotton industries in Australia. I think that the $500 million provided in the federal budget for retrieving water out of the Murray-Darling Basin could best be put to use by creating structural adjustment schemes for cotton and rice growers to hand back their water rights, to convert their farming practices to something which is more suitable to our arid climate, for the benefit of the Murray-Darling Basin, for the benefit of the economy of Australia, and for the benefit of the ecology of Australia and of future generations.

Federal budget

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.08): Mr Speaker:

There was a time, or so we’ll tell our great-grandchildren … when being Australian was a point of pride. When Australianness stood for honestly, optimism and a fair go … a twinkle in the eye and one up authority.

When things did get tough, in the early 21st century, there was a fleeting chance for us to signify, to show leadership, imagination and courage. There we sat, at the far, balmy end of the world, with vast resources, limitless space, a glorious climate and relatively few mouths to feed. We were educated, healthy and remarkably wealthy. All of this we could have used as a force for good. A force for survival.

Instead, we chose to get richer, fatter and smugger. We had resources to burn and, my, we burnt them. What a fire it was. We let our fauna drift into extinction and our indigenes into indigence. Instead of harvesting wind, wave, hot-rock or sun energy, which we had in sparkling abundance, we sold our forests for toilet tissue, our rivers for cotton farming, our space for radioactive waste, our military for oil.

And yet, as the icecaps started to melt and the earth to drown, we sank ever deeper into denial. While old Europe poured her energies into sustaining big, dense populations on the few renewables she could muster, we, stuck in neutral, let the mining lobby draft our energy policy, and the developers draft our urban plans. So, while the old world leapt forward we new worlders went on filling our air with fossil fuels and covering our remaining farmlands with fat, eaveless houses …

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