The decision by a federal parliamentary committee looking into irrigation efficiency not to come to Shepparton is a bewildering one.
At first glance the topic, ‘Efficiency of water use in Australian agriculture’, would seem to be tailor-made for northern Victoria.
We have the most intensive irrigated agricultural production in Australia, the largest irrigation water authority, the biggest dairy area in Australia, and we are home to a private company (Rubicon) which exports innovative irrigation technology all over the world.
And there is the small matter of the Federal Government spending about $1billion on modernising irrigation in the region.
You might think a parliamentary committee would like to check on how that is going?
So it is with some consternation that we discovered the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources is not coming to conduct public hearings in northern Victoria.
So which irrigation areas has the committee visited? Toowoomba, Narrabri, Griffith, Harvey (Western Australia), Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra.
There are not many irrigators in Melbourne, as the VFF has pointed out to us.
The excuse from the committee is that there were only three submissions from this region (we counted four, not including those from north of the Murray) and Goulburn-Murray Water had refused to host the committee.
As for the reference to the costs of moving the committee, we’d like to see the bill for the flights to WA, to visit a region which has 700 irrigators, compared to G-MW’s 12000.
If we accept that G-MW refused to co-operate for a visit, we know there would be other organisations here that would gladly offer up a venue and arrange for some visits to see water efficiency projects.
We could believe that it may have been some oversight, but a number of people have told us they contacted the committee secretariat to invite it here.
The deliberate decision not to come to the region must be a slight to Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum, who unsuccessfully tried to coax them here, and surely would be a disappointment to Federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is busy trying to encourage government departments to move to the regions, while he can’t even get his federal colleagues to visit a regional city.
We are left with the conclusion there must be some unknown political reason for the decision or it was monumental stuff-up to not include the most important irrigation region in Australia on the committee’s itinerary.