Irrigation cost cut promise to grow confidence
If re-elected, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced Labor would invest $50 million to slash irrigation water bills across the state.
The commitment would deliver a 15 per cent cut in irrigation water charges for the 6,400 farmers who buy water from Queensland's 35 state-owned irrigation schemes.
This includes broad-scale crops like sugarcane and a 50 per cent cut for fruit and vegetable growers.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan welcomed the promise, stating the reduction had the potential to save growers up to $15,000 a year which will make a difference with the world sugar price low and electricity costs for pumping still high.
But he said they had questions over the "two-tier" promise as fruit and vegetable growers could have their water costs halved.
"There are many, many Canegrowers members who grow both sugarcane and a vegetable crop pumping water for both from the same source and through the same infrastructure," he said.
"We've never been in a situation before where the destination paddock has dictated the water price."
Mr Galligan said they ALP announcement followed a Liberal National Party commitment to cut irrigation water charges by "almost 20 per cent by changing the underlying fundamentals of the water pricing system, something that would have a different impact in different areas".
He welcomed the acknowledgment by both of the major parties that water was a critical but costly input for the future of agriculture in Queensland and that lower prices were needed.
"Both commitments approach the long-held position of Canegrowers that water prices need to come down by 20 per cent," he said.
"While the announcements raise questions, we look forward to these being worked through in consultation with industry and whomever forms government next week.
"The flow-on effects from profitable irrigated agriculture to the rest of the economy can be substantial.
"For every $1 invested by Canegrowers members in growing sugarcane, a further $6.40 is generated in economic activity in Queensland."
The Premier said agriculture was one of Queensland's traditional economic strengths, and "our farm businesses will help underpin our economic recovery".
"Reducing irrigation water costs means more crops, more jobs and more value," she said.
"A re-elected Labor Government will ensure lower water charges - in a way that has been costed, funded, and will be delivered.
"Our commitment is guaranteed and watertight, unlike the LNP who have only promised an accounting trick, not any actual savings."
She said the price drops would start from 1 July next year - following on the heels of the Palaszczuk Government's existing water price relief measures.
"My Government has already frozen water prices for this year and absorbed dam safety costs as part of our ongoing measures to provide COVID relief for Queensland business and industry," she said.
"By investing $27 million into Queensland irrigation schemes over three years, will deliver a 15 per cent reduction in water bills for all irrigators.
"Another $23 million will deliver half-price water for fruit and veg growers, helping to stimulate jobs in this labour-intensive sector."
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe met with Labor Candidate for Bundaberg Tom Smith today to highlight the Premier's announcement, saying water was "like gold".
Mr Smith said Labor's water price policy was about helping farmers to grow their business and to employ more locals.
"This is a really really important announcement because it gives growers confidence at the time when they need confidence the most," he said.
Labor Candidate for Burnett Kerri Morgan said cheaper water would support more farming jobs.
"For our fruit and veg growers, it means increased productivity and profitability, and more jobs on their farms," Ms Morgan said.
Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said this announcement would be a gamechanger for agriculture.
"This will make a real difference to farmers from Mareeba to Cunnamulla to Yelarbon.
"For our fruit and veg growers, it means increased productivity and profitability, and more jobs on their farms," he said.
"The Palaszczuk Labor Government has committed $1.2 Billion to water infrastructure since 2017, to provide water security and growth opportunities for our farmers.
"We have also guaranteed that water assets will remain in the people of Queensland's hands.
Incumbent Member for Bundaberg, LNP's David Batt described the minister's visit in Bundaberg like a "travel through", with no new announcment from the Premier's irrigation price cut yesterday.
The NewsMail has reached out to Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers for comment.