Steph Cooke – the shadow Water minister and Nationals Member for Cootamundra – has written in the Daily Telegraph today.
Premier Chris Minns recently showed signs that he finally gets it – that he understands the future prosperity of NSW rests with the success of the regions.
This concession followed the glaringly obvious observation that as our key export partners continue to transition away from fossil fuels, demand for the state’s black coal – our No. 1 export – is going to start tapering off. According to the Premier, NSW’s black coal exports were worth a whopping $44bn last year.
Take black coal away and we’ll soon be left with a whopping black hole in the state’s finances.
Minns says he has a plan to plug this hole. He wants NSW to pivot more towards our agricultural exports. The bumper sticker writes itself: regions to the rescue?
But I honestly don’t know how he intends to do this when we have Labor governments here and federally who seem determined to slam the brakes on productivity in rural and regional NSW.
Case in point: the revised Murray-Darling Basin plan that will smash the nation’s food bowl for purely political purposes and wipe out billions in lost production in the process.
In a cosy deal with the Greens, federal Labor last week secured legislation that effectively rewrites the rules when it comes to delivering environmental water targets.
The Premier and his city-based Water Minister say they’re against resorting to water buybacks. But they have failed every test to prove that they actually mean what they say.
They’ve been secretive about the Basin deal’s fine print, so much so that during the final NSW parliamentary sitting week, we in the opposition moved a motion in the Upper House calling on the NSW Labor government to release all documents relating to the revised plan that they’ve signed up to with the feds.
Not only did Labor side with the Greens to stymie our efforts, the minister claimed that the documents we seek don’t actually exist; that the government doesn’t even have an agreement scribbled on the back of an envelope to show the deal that’s supposed to be worth $700 million to NSW! If you go to the supermarket to buy bread, you at least get a receipt.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the NSW Labor government used every trick in the book last week to avoid voting on a Bill that would have put safeguards in place to ensure that, should the government resort to buybacks, they don’t cause the level of social and economic harm that we know comes from this sort of intervention.
The obfuscation and secrecy would be farcical if it wasn’t so deeply concerning.
The lives and livelihoods of so many now depend on the Premier and the Water Minister and how they handle this critical situation.
I urge them to stand up the Commonwealth and stick up for the people of NSW. Our prosperity depends on it.