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CEO Report

Here we go.

The Prime Minister is due to visit Government House this weekend to call the Federal Election for Saturday 14 or Saturday 21 May.

The Treasurer delivered the Budget last Tuesday night (NIC sent a newsletter out to members outlining what was in the budget for irrigated agriculture). The Budget’s receiving mixed reviews. Broadly, most people have shrugged their shoulders at the Budget which announced major policies, including an $8 billion commitment to lower the cost of living through measures such as the 6 month 50% cut to excise tax on fuel. The AFR have called the response “lukewarm” and I would agree. There is significant funding tied up in Decisions Taken But Not Yet Announced – so there will be a number of announcements during the election campaign as the Government seeks to win over voters. The Coalition will continue to campaign on the Budget until the election – leaning heavily on the “better economic managers” line.

The Opposition Leader delivered his Budget-in-Reply last Thursday. It was focused on care. Aged care, childcare and healthcare. A very different approach to the Coalition. Generally speaking, I think people are more inclined to want to be caring after everything we’ve been through – COVID, war, isolation – let alone the utter disaster that has been aged care during the pandemic. People are focused on health and I think this will be the cornerstone of the ALP’s campaign, and I think it will win over quite a few voters as long as Labor can explain the economics of these policies, that is, where the money is coming from. The Budget-in-Reply got a bit lost in the news cycle thanks to the impressive address to Parliament by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and the lethal aid announcements made by the Government. The Government has criticised the Opposition for failing to present an “Alternative Budget” and will continue this attack, presenting it as “Labor has no plan, our plan is the Budget”.

The latest Newspoll was published Monday. It has a slight improvement (1 point) to the Coalition’s position and a 3 point decline for the ALP. The ALP is still ahead 54:46 on a two party preferred basis. Interestingly, of the 3 points the ALP lost, 2 went to the Greens, which in practice still come back to the ALP through preferences. One point went to the Coalition, but with first preference votes still in the low 30’s, if those results were replicated at an election, the Coalition wouldn’t win – certainly not a majority. The vote for Independents and minor parties remains steady. The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader remain statistically the same in terms of Preferred Prime Minister. There are still 15% who are uncommitted on this front, which has enough in it to help sway the vote. The Prime Minister recovered 2 points to -12 in net performance terms, while the Opposition Leader fell three points to -1. The PM’s standing with women in particular is worrying for the Coalition, while a massive 13% of people were still yet to form an opinion on the Opposition Leader, which shows he still has a lot of work to do to market himself.

Ipsos has a worse result for the Coalition. It has the Lib/Nat first preference vote down to 31 (an unwinnable position). Labor is on 35, with the Greens on 10, following preferences the ALP is leading the Coalition 55 to 45. There are still 15% who when asked to pick their second preferences couldn’t decide between Labor or the Liberals – which means second preferences could be very hard to predict come the election. It will be a big factor if Independents and minor parties don’t tell their voters who to preference – meaning seats could change hands against incumbents regardless of their party. More people disapprove of the PM’s performance than approve of it (48 to 33) while 19% remain uncommitted. While 30% approve of the Opposition Leader’s performance, 32% disapprove, but again the worry for the ALP is that 38% are uncommitted meaning people still haven’t made up their mind about Albanese. They are statistically the same in preferred PM terms.

We will see an extremely negative campaign from both parties. Elections never have uniform swings. Each seat will need to be fought for and will have different local campaigns, but it’s going to be bruising – and it already is in some cases.

As a bipartisan and trusted adviser to Parliamentarians and the public service, NIC will work with whomever is elected to the Parliament and forms government. Food and fibre production for our domestic consumption and for international trade is too important for partisanship. NIC will respond to water and energy policy announcements as they are made to ensure the voice of irrigated agriculture is heard and to help the parties shape the policies they take forward into government. We will keep you updated as the election unfolds.

This will probably be the last newsletter before Easter. On behalf of the NIC team and board, I want to wish you a Happy Easter. I hope you have a good break. Please travel safe on the long weekend and enjoy the extra time with your family and friends.

New Starter - Welcome Rebecca!

NIC is pleased to announce the appointment of Rebecca Turpie as Administration and Social Media Officer.

Rebecca has started in our Barton office and Members will start seeing emails and getting calls from Rebecca in coming weeks as she takes over the admin roles from Joy and I, including coordinating NIC meetings. Rebecca will also be helping me with social media, comms and social license – and we’ll be in touch soon with our plans to help boost our comms efforts.

Rebecca has extensive experience in graphic design, marketing, communications, events management and administrative support, including over a decade running her own business – and she has already become a vital member of the NIC team!

We welcome Rebecca to the team and look forward to introducing her to Members at our next meetings!

Nagambie General Meeting Reminder

For your diaries, a reminder to Members regarding NIC meetings and field trips scheduled for Nagambie, Victoria on Wednesday 20, Thursday 21 and Friday 22 July.

The venue for all meetings will the Nagambie Lakes Regatta Centre, 66 Loddings Lane, Nagambie.

Please book your accommodation. More details on the program will follow.

Additionally, planning ahead, the NIC AGM and General Meeting will be held in Canberra on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 October at East Hotel, Canberra.

Irrigation Australia and International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage Conference

The Irrigation Australia and International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage Conference is coming up later in the year. It will be held 3-10 October in Adelaide.

The program is jam-packed and will feature local and international guest speakers, and cover a range of topics which are relevant to the irrigated agricultural sector. There will also be a great range of exhibitors and some fantastic technical tours too. You can find out more about the program here and register here.

ALP Murray-Darling 5 Point Plan

As noted above, NIC will keep you updated on water and energy announcements. The ALP has today made some announcements in South Australia which includes a five-point plan for the Murray-Darling:

1. Working with Basin governments and stakeholders to deliver on water commitments, including the 450 GL of water for the environment.

2. Increasing compliance across the Basin and, to support that compliance work, committing an additional $35 million for improved metering and monitoring.

3. Restoring integrity and confidence by working with stakeholders to implement relevant ACCC recommendations, and by making the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s modelling and data publicly available where possible.

4. Increasing First Nations ownership of water entitlements and participation in decision making.

5. Future-proofing the Basin Plan by updating the science, committing $8.5 million for the CSIRO Sustainable Yield study to inform the forthcoming review, committing $3.5 million for an independent study on climate change’s effect on Ramsar wetlands in the Basin and, if justified, considering whether to bring forward the commencement of the 2026 review.

In response, NIC put out this media release - ALP Water Policy: A Word of Caution.

Useful Links

Video

This video link will take you to the Leader of the Opposition’s speech at the National Farmers’ Federation Conference:

Opposition Leader's Speech - NFF Conference