The last few weeks were full of announcements from around the country. In Canberra, the new secretaries for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry were named as Mr David Fredericks PSM and Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO, respectively. NIC welcomes the appointments and looks forward to working with the Secretaries and their teams.
The Writs were returned following the Federal Election with the AEC declaring the final results. Labor secured majority government with 77 seats in the House of Representatives, while the Coalition Opposition has 58 seats. The Lower House Crossbench has dramatically expanded to 16 seats, including 4 Greens, 1 Centre Alliance, 1 Katter Australia Party, 3 Independents and 7 Teal Independents. Up in the Senate, Labor won 15 seats adding to its 11 current Senators for a total of 26 seats. The Coalition has a total of 32 seats with the addition of the 15 seats they won at this election. There are 18 Crossbenchers in the Senate. The Green has expanded their numbers to 12. Pauline Hanson returns to the Senate taking One Nation to 2 Senators. Jacqui Lambie has another Senator joining her party for 2. David Pocock won a seat in the Senator representing the ACT. And, the Clive Palmer backed United Australia Party won a seat to represent Victoria in the Senate. With the issues surfacing around staffing and basic arithmetic, the new Parliament won’t be a smooth ride for the Albanese Government. Every Bill in the Senate will need all of the Greens, plus Lambie or Pocock to support it. The Sitting Calendar was also announced. The Parliament will meet for the first time in the last week of July and first week of August for the swearing in of new Members and Senators. It won’t sit again until the weeks commencing 5 and 12 July. The new Budget will be handed down on Tuesday 25 October, before only three sitting weeks take the Parliament into Christmas. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has also been appointed Greens Spokesperson for the Environment and Water.
In Victoria, Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing became Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Equality, following the resignation of Lisa Neville. We thank the outgoing Minister for her engagement and look forward to meeting with the new Minister who we congratulate on her appointment.
In New South Wales, the Budget was handed down with $1.1 billion in water policy and program announcements. $255.7 million has been set aside to accelerate five Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects. Completing the SDLAM projects is vital to the Basin Plan and the promises made to the productive sector and local communities, so it is good to see NSW is stepping up to deliver on these commitments. There is $138.6 million to fund compliance and regulatory activities, including metering, floodplain harvesting, investigations and dam safety management, which NIC welcomes. $102 million is being invested in Off-Farm Efficiency Program projects, including funding for Murrumbidgee Irrigation to increase the efficiency of its systems to deliver water savings which will be returned to the environment. NIC strongly supports the program and this investment which is helping to deliver the 450 gigalitre efficiency measures of the Basin Plan. The NSW Budget also has $19.8 million to implement the NSW Water Strategy, specifically delivering a First Nations’ Water Strategy, NSW’s first Groundwater Strategy and Southern Floodplain Management Plans. We look forward to working with the NSW Government as they consult and progress these plans. Finally, it has a $206 million program for farmers who voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions and protect biodiversity, and over $1 billion for primary industries, including $670.6 million for flood recovery.
The Queensland Budget was also delivered last week. $510 million was announced for water infrastructure and planning. More than $447 million was set aside for water security projects. Over $300 million was committed to delivering the Toowoomba to Warwick Pipeline project to provide drought contingency for Warwick and surrounding communities, and a permanent water supply to Toowoomba satellite communities. $107.5 million was allocated to Stage 1 of the Cairns Water Security program. $40.4 million was put towards construction of a drinking water pipeline from Gracemere to Mt Morgan, as well as necessary water infrastructure upgrades in Gracemere. $26 million for the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct enabling infrastructure was included in the Budget, including a reservoir and 13km pipeline, connecting the precinct and pump station to the Haughton Pipeline. $25.6 million was also penciled in for the development of Flinders Shire Council’s Hughenden Water Bank project – a 7000 megalitre, off-stream water storage and distribution system to support development and expansion of irrigated agriculture and industry development.
In Western Australia, the WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh has launched an inquiry into agricultural safety. It follows 12 tragic work-related deaths in the industry in WA in 12 months.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics handed down its Australian Industry update which showed the agricultural sector grew by $5.7 billion or 36.4% between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. Agriculture Industry Value Added increased 17.7% or $4.7 billion. While employment in the sector fell by 0.9% or around 4,000 workers.
Finally, the BoM declared La Nina has receded however there is still a strong chance it may return during Spring. With floods returning to NSW, in particular, and large rainfall events occurring, it is still likely be a wetter than average Winter and Spring. It is having major impacts on farm yields and has led to many abandoning crops, while others have had multiple paddocks of drowned seeds. All of which will continue to put pressure on the cost of living for consumers and food security, let alone pressure on farmers who were hopeful of finally having a good season after years of drought. There has also been a number of important pieces written in the last couple of weeks, including one by Chris Barrie the former Chief of the Australian Defence Force linking climate change, food security and national security which is worth reading – it paints a staggering picture.