The Prime Minister addressed the 2019 Bush Summit in Dubbo yesterday speaking to many who have borne the brunt of drought and environmental chaos.
The summit invited policy makers and community groups to discuss the threats to regional industry, agriculture and business, and to propose possible solutions.
While Mr Morrison used the opportunity to restate the Coalition's existing policy to lift agriculture, fisheries and forestry to a $100 billion industry by 2030, one Traditional Owner told NITV News the priority needs to sit with resources.
The government pledged to set up a new parliamentary committee to examine the future needs of rural and regional Australia but William ‘Badger‘ Bates, a Barkindji Elder said their first order needed to be addressing water issues on the Darling River and Menindee Lakes.
“Without the Darling River we’ve got no culture, my people – we’ve got nothing.”
“If the government or anyone else are going to do something, not just for the Barkindji people, but for all people in Western New South Wales and South Australia, they should let the Darling River flow again,“ Mr Bates said.
In a question and answer forum at the Summit, the PM defended the Coalition’s handling of the Murray Darling Basin issues.
“Some say that (Murray Darling) plan is the worst plan ever. I’d say that’s only true if you ignore every other plan,” Mr Morrison said.
"Anyone who thinks that the Commonwealth has a magic wand which sort of says, 'this can happen or that can happen', I think should read the history of the basin plan more carefully."
The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) ordered the Menindee Lakes be drained in 2014 and 2017 in a bid to meet water demands downstream.
The Menindee Lakes are located in south-west New South Wales on the Darling River, about 200 km upstream of the Darling River's junction with the River Murray and made headlines earlier this year for a series of mass fish kills.
As the government prepares for an 11-year plan to stimulate regional industries, Uncle Badger says environmental issues need to be addressed now.
“They got to take care of the resources. What about the people that depend on the river? I'm talking about black and white people,' he said.
“Here at Menindee, we had a good industry for fruit and growing stuff that you could eat, and then they raped the river and killed it… and now Menindee is a war zone."
Government drought fund and $100bn plan
In his Bush Summit address, Scott Morrison outlined the coalition’s commitment to making agriculture, fisheries and forestry a $100 billion industry by 2030.
The PM said he will work with Agriculture Minister, Bridget Mackenzie, on a national plan to achieve the Coalition’s priorities.
“The goals are more and bigger markets, removing non-tariff trade barriers, new research in investment and research… Assisting with inter-generational land transfers, ensuring our water policy hits the mark, access to finance, new assistance in tackling pests and weeds and managing native vegetation,” he said.
The federal government will also provide $2 million over four years for Soils For Life, a not-for-profit organisation which looks at improvements to agricultural land management.
Mr Morrison pushed for the opposition to support the Future Drought Fund Bill 2019, which will be debated in Parliament next week.
“We know our climate is changing and drought has been part of the Australian landscape.”
“We know this drought won't be the last and that is why we are seeking to establish the future drought funds with an initial investment rising to $5 billion, it will draw down each year will provide a sustainable source of funding for works, preparedness and recovery,” the Prime Minister said.