Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Acknowledge policy failings
Keith Pitt is an experienced politician, but his career and background have not been in water policy.
Perhaps that is why the federal Water Minister seems to lack a genuine understanding of what has happened in the water space, according to Denimein Landholders Association chair Jon Gatacre.
Mr Pitt was an electrical engineer in Queensland before getting into politics nearly a decade ago. Last year, despite appearing to have extremely limited experience in water management, he was appointed the federal minister for this important portfolio.
During National Water Week (October 18 to 24) Mr Pitt has described the week as ‘‘a chance for us all to think about how we use and value water’’.
‘‘I think that’s a great idea,’’ Mr Gatacre said.
‘‘And a good place to start would be thinking about the water we are wasting under the government’s current policy, then doing something to fix it.
‘‘Under Mr Pitt’s watch we are damaging our environment and adversely impacting the productivity of our farmers, because the Federal Government does not have the courage to admit the water management mistakes that have been made.
‘‘We continue to have National Party politicians in the Murray region acknowledging that change is needed, but it seems they are unable to get the message through to their colleague Mr Pitt, who appears more intent on keeping the Liberal Party happy than looking after this important part of regional Australia.’’
Mr Gatacre said claims by Mr Pitt that Australia is recognised as a world leader in water management may have been correct 20 years ago, but it is not the case in 2021.
‘‘We have unfortunately lost our position as a world leader, and this has happened due to poor management by successive Federal Governments.
‘‘If you look at the declines in food production across key areas over the past decade it tells a disappointing story and is a true reflection of what governments have done to the ability of farmers to produce staple products for domestic and international consumption.
‘‘They conveniently don’t mention that staples such as wheat, dairying and rice have all suffered significant production decreases since the introduction of the failed Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the water wastage that has accompanied it.
‘‘In the rice growing regions of southern New South Wales we have the capacity to produce enough rice to feed 20 million people worldwide for 365 days a year. But instead of helping our farmers to feed the world’s population and at the same time provide prosperity for regional communities, we have a Water Minister who is overseeing shocking water waste, while depriving hungry human beings of food and regional communities of a vital contributor to their economies.
‘‘So during Water Week it’s best if the minister accepts a more honest assessment of what is happening in our regions, rather than using political spin that paints a false picture,’’ Mr Gatacre said.