Water Week

EWN Publishing

With the drought continuing and grave scenario for agriculture looming, time ripe to develop Northern Australia as future food bowl, need to develop Ord 2 as starting point, says WA Lib Senator

Posted by waterweek on 3 October 2007

With an early break of a possible La Nina, or drought-breaking event, not occurring, it meant that there would continue to be a drought across most of Australia, said Alan Eggleston, Senator for Western Australia, member of the Government’s Backbench Policy Committee on Health and Ageing, Liberal Party of Australia, in the Commonwealth Senate on 18 September 2007, adding that it was time to unlock the potential of Northern Australia to become the food bowl of the nation, which in turn required solutions appropriate to the local conditions and an understanding that what may have worked in the south may well not be suitable for the north.

Cotton shows the way: A good example of this was cotton farming. Cotton in the south was a summer crop, whereas the Ord River agricultural research station had shown that, in the north, cotton was a winter crop, when the temperatures were cooler and the amount of water in the fields could be controlled.

North to play a pivotal role: Eggleston said there was no doubt that the north was going to be critical for the future of agriculture in dealing with the challenges of climate change and reduced rainfall in southern areas of Australia.

Secondary economy mooted: According to Eggleston, while mining, gas and oil dominated the economic landscape in the north of Western Australia, there was a need to prepare a secondary economy, such as tourism, which was always regarded as the second string in the bow of economic development in the north.

Agriculture – the obvious choice: However, agriculture was the obvious alternative industry, given that it had the highest multipliers of most sectors in terms of jobs and value-added and export income, Eggleston said, quoting Mark Lewis of the WA Department of Agriculture and the manager of NRM and industry development for rangelands in the Western Australian department.

Need to build local knowledge, skills: Agriculture could build on the back of, enhance and create additional tourism related experiences, said Eggleston quoting Lewis. Over the years, there had been numerous high-profile concepts, studies and feasibilities espoused for the north, most of which had failed due to lack of local research and capacity. To this end, there was need to build on local knowledge and local skills and ensure that there was the wherewithal in local areas to carry these projects through.

Ord 2 as starting point!: There was a need to take very obvious, simple and pragmatic steps that would create the foundation planks for growth in the region such as the Ord stage 2 for which the dialogue with the government of Western Australia and the government of the Northern Territory be continued, who, rather sadly, had shown a rather disappointing lack of real interest in Ord stage 2. The dialogue must be outcomes based and achieve benefits for all Australians.

Reference: Alan Eggleston, Senator for Western Australia, member of the Government’s Backbench Policy Committee on Health and Ageing, Liberal Party of Australia, Commonwealth Senate, 18 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 18/9/2007, p. 83

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