Four Corners 'fails to represent the full picture'

Four Corners 'fails to represent the full picture' on Murray-Darling Basin Plan

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Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage says Four Corners has failed to represent full picture on Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage says Four Corners has failed to represent full picture on Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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The Queensland Farmers Federation says Four Corners has failed to represent the full picture on Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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THE Queensland Farmers Federation has joined a growing body of disquiet over a ABC's Four Corners program, which targeted irrigation and water management in the Murray Darling Basin.

QFF president Stuart Armitage said the program titled 'Cash Splash' and broadcast on Monday night, failed to represent the realities of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The program has also drawn criticism from Water Minister David Littleproud, farmer organisation Cotton Australia and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, who all say they were not contacted by Four Corners in the making of the 43 minute program.

Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray was particularly stinging in his criticism, saying the story was riddled with factual errors and guided the audience down a path of misrepresentation about the fundamentals of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

"It is beyond disappointing to once again see the ABC's Four Corners program use its influential position to air another biased, inaccurate piece of journalism," Mr Murray said.

"Given the way the show was presented, it would be understandable for a viewer to question whether the environment has gained anything under the plan."

Mr Armitage said under the plan, there was a set limit on the amount of water that could be used for farming. He said the fundamental purpose of the plan was to further reduce the cap to a more sustainable level through water infrastructure programs.

"As a result of this cap, the total amount of water used by farmers does not change, regardless of the type of crops that are grown," Mr Armitage said.

"And if the amount of water used on one farm increases from the purchase of water, the amount used on another farm must decrease from the sale of that water."

Mr Armitage said farmers would use their water allocation to grow the most profitable crops available to continue their business, support their families, employ local people and underpin regional economies.

However, he said it was critical that government water policies achieved environmental, economic and social outcomes.

"There is a general recognition that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has failed to achieve these social outcomes as evidenced by the devastation of many basin communities," Mr Armitage said.

As examples, he said Dirranbandi has lost 27 per cent of its irrigated area while at St George, jobs in agriculture have dropped by more than 15pc and non-agriculture private sector jobs were down more than 20pc.

The water infrastructure programs have provided much needed certainty for farmers and basin communities so they can keep farming and support their local communities. - Stuart Armitage, Queensland Farmers Federation

"The water infrastructure programs have provided much needed certainty for farmers and basin communities so they can keep farming and support their local communities," he said.

"Born from compromise, the basin plan is the best chance to ensure we better manage a scarce resource, hold water for the environment while ensuring a sustainable level of consumptive take, and fairly address damaging socio-economic impacts."

Water Minister David Littleproud water efficiency projects returned water to the river system, while protecting rural jobs and communities.

"It is unfortunate Four Corners did not mention this crucial fact," Mr Littleproud said.

"The Coalition uses water efficiency projects instead of water buybacks to recover water because water buybacks mean less farm production, less harvesting and packing jobs in small towns, and less money spent in the local pubs and restaurants.

"Water efficiency projects began under the previous Labor government, after it had bought back nearly 1200GL of water and literally thousands of rural jobs were lost.

"The Coalition promised before the 2013 election to use water efficiency projects to recover water and we've delivered our promise."

Mr Littleproud said the plan had so far delivered 2100GL of water back to the river system with about another 500GL to go. 1200GL was recovered through buybacks mostly under Labor, 700GL through water efficiency projects and the balance through state government programs and gifted water.

Comment has been sought from Four Corners.

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