Save the Murray-Darling: Ban the Export of Cotton

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The Murray-Darling River system is dying a slow death.

The SA Royal Commissioner has delivered a deeply authoritative assessment of the dire condition of the rivers. Even without the Commissioner's work, the signs of stress are there for all to see. In the space of six weeks, three different mass fish kill events have wiped out hundreds of thousands of native fish. Towns like Walgett that are dependent on the Murray-Darling River system are without drinking water and others are close. Pastoralists are being forced to sell off livestock because there is no safe water for them to drink.

It is clear that we need immediate and decisive action. The Murray-Darling merry-go-round of maladministration and political interference didn't even pause when the Royal Commissioner released his report. It just kept spinning. It is now necessary to open debate on a strong and definitive measure to save the Murray-Darling; the export of Australian-grown cotton.

We live on the driest inhabited continent on the planet, yet are using our precious national water resources to produce a water intensive crop which we then export overseas so that foreign entities can profit by making textiles and clothing. This is not in the national interest.

Ninety per cent of Australian-grown cotton is exported – 48 per cent of which goes to China and India. Exporting cotton is like exporting water, it makes no sense to do this. We are quite literally sucking the life blood out of the Murray-Darling River system at the expense of downstream food producers, the towns and cities dependent on our rivers for water supply, and the overall environmental health of the river system, all the way to the Coorong lagoon in South Australia.

Priority must be given to restoring the environmental health of the river, guaranteeing Australia’s future food security and supply of water to the towns and cities dependent on the river.

Neither the Coalition Government or the Labor Opposition appear willing or able to advance any substantive proposals to restore the health of the Murray-Darling system, so Centre Alliance will now act.

Under Centre Alliance’s Banning Cotton Exports to Ensure Water Security Bill, the Export Control Act 1982 will be amended to prohibit the export of cotton grown in Australia. The proposed ban would come into effect no later than three years after the passage of legislation.

We are calling on the major parties to put politics aside and prioritise the environment, food and water security, and needs of regional communities.