CEO Report and Election Update
The election campaign is rolling on with the usual ups and downs for the major parties and the seemingly random controversies which always arise around certain candidates.
After some major gaffs last week, the ALP’s lead over the Coalition has narrowed, which it was always expected to do. However, they still hold a commanding lead on two party preferred terms. In other words, if an election was held tomorrow the ALP would likely finish ahead of the Coalition supported by preference flows from minor parties and independents.
The first leaders debate was a bit of a non-event, no major policies and no major mistakes. Mr Albanese “won” with 40% of the people in the room saying he performed better, while only 35% backed Mr Morrison. The most interesting figure was the 25% of undecided voters who left still undecided. Mr Albanese has tested positive for COVID overnight which means he is in isolation for a week. His frontbench will be out and about in his place, and it will be interesting to see what if any effect this has on the ALP’s campaign.
All roads seem to be leading to minority government with neither major party likely to be able to form government in their own right. Both leaders are saying they won’t do deals with independents, but like a lot that will be said in the coming weeks that won’t be the case – they’ll make the deal. The independents and Climate 200 crew seem to be indicating they will back whichever party has better integrity and climate policies, including stronger targets for 2030 emissions – which would suggest they’ll back Labor.
There are several key seats to watch, including Nicholls in Victoria recently vacated by Damien Drum. It’s a three-cornered contest Lib, Nat, Independent and the biggest issue on their agenda is water policy.
Speaking of water policy, it’s making headlines. Minister Littleproud has said the 450 GL efficiency measure program is dead and timelines need to be extended. The ALP have said they will deliver the 450 promised to South Australia and have refused to rule out buybacks. And the Liberals have said they will deliver the Plan in full and have no plans to alter it.
NIC has called for calm and called for the parties to not reignite the water wars. We have encouraged all parties to come together to celebrate the achievements to date of the Plan and work together to finalise the Plan. Over 80% of the most complicated, unique and highly regulated water policy in the world has been completed and that should be celebrated. Progress has been made and we can achieve more if we all work together to get outcomes for food and fibre growers, the environment and for local communities.
There is still a long way to go before polling day and anything could still happen. NIC has been speaking to both major parties outlining the priorities of the irrigated agriculture sector on both water and energy policy, and we will work with whomever forms government to ensure the voice of the sector is heard.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve also met with a number of key stakeholders. I’ve spoken to Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler and her office, plus the offices of Ministers Pitt and Anderson. I attended the April Peaks Meeting with other Murray Darling Basin stakeholders where we heard from MDBA, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Inspector-General of Water Compliance. We also had a briefing on progress on the capacity and shortfalls work being undertaken by the Commonwealth. NIC and the IIO sub-committee have also met with Daryl Quinlivan and his team to discuss progress on the water markets recommendations. I met with the Climate Community of Practice and I’ve been in discussions with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
Finally, I attend the Associations Forum National Conference in Melbourne where I participated in a number of key sessions on helping to enhance the outputs and performance of associations, like NIC. Over the coming months, we will be rolling out some new initiatives, coupled with ongoing work on our governance, public policy and social license/communications which all go to ensuring NIC remains the national voice of irrigated agriculture, we advocate strongly for water and energy policy to support the industry, and we promote and celebrate the irrigated agriculture sector.