LEON BYNER: … Simon Birmingham, who is the Coalition’s representative, he’s their Opposition spokesman on the Murray River… he’s taken it upon himself to go to these consultations and just see what the difference is going to be between the Draft Plan, that is not a done deal according to the Minister, and what will actually happen.
So let’s talk to Simon. Now Simon, you were in Shepparton at this meeting, tell us what happened?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Yes, good morning Leon and listeners. Well, passions were running understandably very high in Shepparton yesterday, they had 600-plus people at the first session, more than a thousand throughout the day, and today that’s been followed up in Deniliquin in country New South Wales, I understand with more than 800 people at this morning’s session and about that number locked out of the session this morning and they’ve had to schedule extra sessions today to accommodate that, so it just goes to show how strong passions are running and by the time it gets to Renmark on Friday this week in South Australia I suspect the Authority’s going to need to be doing an open air meeting on the oval up there to accommodate our understandably very concerned people throughout the Riverland districts and they’re concerned because this goes to their livelihoods, the future of their communities and indeed a flow on effect, that you’ve highlighted so strongly, to city people and that is the cost and availability of good Australian-grown food.
LEON BYNER: Well, isn’t the Authority cognisant that even the Australian Food and Grocery Council are basically on the side of the growers here, because they’ve come out… we had a chat with Kate Carnell a couple of days ago, she speaks for that organisation… and they are saying if you take water away from food producers, you will impact on the cost of food. Does the Authority understand this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I think they understand it, Leon, but they’re certainly hearing it loud and clear. At the Shepparton meeting yesterday people were passionate and scathing about the lack and the failure of the socio-economic analysis and it is time that the Authority and the Labor Government in particular swallowed their pride and accepted that the Coalition’s policy at the last election, to have a thorough Productivity Commission analysis of this Draft Plan, that looked thoroughly at the socio-economic impact right across the Basin, region by region, crop type by crop type, and indeed of course at our overall food productivity and capacity, should be undertaken and should be undertaken urgently to give some sense of comfort to everybody who’s concerned about this.
LEON BYNER: Alright, you’re going to the Riverland meeting as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: You betcha, I will be heading up to the Riverland
LEON BYNER: Alright, well you’ll expect a call from us, alright?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’ll be very happy to talk to you, Leon. I just hope that one of my Labor colleagues decides to go along as well because it’s been a very lopsided affair thus far with only Coalition MPs from the Liberal or National Parties at any of the meetings yesterday or today and we need to see a better balance from the other side of politics on this.
LEON BYNER: Okay. Simon Birmingham, who is the Coalition’s spokesperson for the River Murray.