Interview on ABC Darwin "Country Hour"


Good afternoon Carl

Question:

Answer: We believe that this idea of getting more food for Australia and the world needs some leadership from governments. Regrettably governments at both state and federal level have been a bit reticent to show the way. Clearly across the top of Australia we do have the rainfall, we have the water, there are pockets of very good soil across the north in what we call a mosaic of good soils. We believe that there is real opportunity for increased agricultural production in those areas.

Question:

Answer: Were looking at, not as some would portray broad scale agriculture across the north of Australia but in localities, for example you mentioned the Douglas Daly Katherine area, that needs to be looked at seriously. There are other parts of Queensland and the Western Australian state that we think can support production of food and we think thats very, very important as part of Australias future food security needs and indeed as part of our obligation to try and help feed those 80 million new mouths that come into the world every year and that need to be fed.

Question:

Answer: Well there are things that we are certainly seriously looking at. We understand that in recent years under particularly Labor Governments , under the influence of Greens that dams have been a naughty word, that theres been a dams phobia. Were trying to lift that phobia off water storage and were having a serious look at where there are good and sustainable proposals around Australia for the building of some form of water storage. Were not being definitive at this stage about whether they should be dams or weirs or whether there should be some other underground arrangement but there are, we think, opportunities for increased production of food across the north that should be seriously investigated.

Question:

Answer: Well weve always had a very serious commitment to further development of the north. You will remember Land and Water Taskforce was set up by John Howard and it was chaired by Bill Heffernan, a Senator from New South Wales, and we started having a very serious look at all of these sorts of things. Regrettably an election intervened and with the advent of the Labor Government the then existing personnel were removed and replaced by bureaucrats and people who we believe had a conservation agenda and so that process which had gone a long way to doing the research, establishing the ground works necessary, was stopped and the Labor Government continued on that process but came out with what could only be described as a very, very disappointing report mainly because as they were told they werent even to look at the prospect of dams across Northern Australia. So certainly under the Howard Government we did look at that, we certainly extended work and production in the Ord River area. We had plans in place for an increase in the Ord River irrigation lands across the border into the Northern Territory but that hasnt happened because current governments just havent given it the leadership that we think is necessary to get private investment and to get people interested in working those areas and providing the country, and indeed the world, with new food sources.

Question:

Answer: Well there is a long way to go in relation to the Territory, the commonwealth could I guess under the arrangements that it is a Territory, look at some proposal that wasnt supported by the Territory Government but clearly what we want to do is try and do all the work, maintain the argument, raise the argument and maintain it and win the argument that there are opportunities for increased production of food in places like the Douglas Daly. We want to work with people, we want to work with scientists to make sure any such water storage proposals are sustainable. But look with all of this talk about the south of the continent getting drying and the north getting wetter or at least staying the same and with looking around the world, seeing where China is going in Africa and other places to buy up land that is available for food production, weve got to be serious about what assets we have in Australia, what opportunities there are and it does need government leadership which regrettably hasnt been shown from the current Territory Government or from the current Australian Government.

Question:

Answer: Weve literally got hundreds of submissions right across Australia and our work is across the whole of Australia not just the north, although I as the Northern Australian spokesman of course am more interested in the north. We have received quite a number of submissions from three states across the top of Australia including the Northern Territory. And theyve been from people with good ideas, theyve been from some associations, some groups of farmers, theyve been also from conservation groups in I might say not always supportive of the idea, but we certainly have had a wide ranging group of submissions to the idea of more water storage in Australia to help with our food security for the future.

Question:

Answer: Well look were clever enough these days to learn from the mistakes that occurred in the Murray/Darling. We have scientists, we have world class scientists who can look carefully into these things. Now we dont want to do anything thats going to destroy our natural resources but we believe that you can extend agricultural activity into many parts of Australia without destroying the ecosystem. Were very confident that that can be done given the right advice and thats what were planning to do. For too long we believe that the dams phobia has been promoted by the Greens and therefore through the Greens to the Labor Party for purely political reasons, we think its time that the government should show some leadership, get some science and funds into the science to ensure that we can do it but can do it properly.

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