Calls to ban cotton exports are naive, short-sighted and will deliver no extra water to the bottom of the Murray Darling system, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said during a visit to Goondiwindi today.
His comments come as a Senate Committee take submissions for an inquiry into a bill introduced by SA Senator Rex Patrick seeking to ‘ban cotton exports to ensure water security’. The deadline for submissions is April 8 – visit the inquiry home page here. – with the committee due to produce a report by August 12.
Mr Canavan said the proposed legislation demonised cotton farmers and would not deliver any extra water to the bottom end of the system.
Cotton-growing was not responsible for low water levels in the southern reaches of the Murray-Darling system, he said.
“Current problems are being caused by drought and many farmers are not receiving an allocation of irrigation water.
“When they do receive an allocation, they can choose how they use it, for example watering cattle or growing crops like cotton. Many choose cotton because it is a relatively profitable crop.
“Water flowing down the system is also affected by evaporation and other factors. Modelling for the Northern Basin Review showed an extra 70 gigalitres of water to the river in the Northern Basin would deliver just seven gigalitres to Menindee.
“The Coalition will not allow cotton growers to be demonised and we will steadfastly oppose opportunistic calls to ban cotton exports, which would effectively destroy the industry.”
Inspecting a cotton farm at Goondiwindi with Minister Canavan today, LNP Senate Candidate Susan McDonald said cotton was earning Australia close to $3 billion a year.
“Cotton accounted for 5 per cent of the gross value of Australian agricultural production in the 2017-18 financial year,” Ms McDonald said.
“Australian cotton has a reputation for quality and exports were worth more than $2 billion in 2017-18.
“Australian cotton directly supports 10,000 jobs across 150 communities in a non-drought year and is grown on more than 1,200 farms, over 90 per cent of them family-owned farms.
“Cotton is a strong part of the fabric of rural life across much of Queensland New South Wales.”