Centre Alliance to Introduce Legislation Banning Cotton Exports

4 February 2019

Centre Alliance has announced its intention to introduce legislation in the next session of Parliament to impose a ban on the export of cotton.

Centre Alliance’s bill will amend the Export Control Act 1982 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 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 making textiles and clothing,” said Senator Rex Patrick, Centre Alliance’s Environment spokesperson.

Ninety percent of cotton grown in Australia is exported and almost 20 percent of Murray-Darling irrigation water allocation is used to grow cotton, and this does not include floodplain harvested water.

“Exporting cotton is like exporting water,” said Rex. “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."

“A decade has passed since the establishment of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Yet the current state of water mismanagement, including maladministration and corruption, and the absence of effective proposals for reform, leave no alternative other than to press for drastic action to ensure the future of the river system,” said Rex.

The proposed legislation has the full support of the Centre Alliance team who have withheld this announcement awaiting the outcome of the South Australian Royal Commission.

"The Royal Commission report is an authoritative assessment of the state of the Murray-Darling and what needs to be done to save the river system. Unfortunately the responses from many of the jurisdictions to the Commissioner's recommendations have so far been dismissive or, at best, weak," Rex said.

“It’s time to face the fact that exporting water in the form of cotton is incompatible with saving the Murray-Darling system, a vital part of Australia’s environment that is essential for our future water and food security. Exporting cotton is not in the national interest.”

“The latest mass fish kills on the lower Darling River and the fact that some townships are now without river water, leaves no doubt that the Murray-Darling system is in deep crisis through over exploitation of water resources,” said Rebekha Sharkie, Member for Mayo. “This is without question a consequence of gross mismanagement and the excessive diversion of water to support export cotton crops produced in Queensland and western New South Wales.”

“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,” said Rebekha.

Centre Alliance will introduce the legislation in the Senate in the next sitting week. “We accept that there are not enough sitting days in the Parliament before the election to take it to a vote,” said Centre Alliance Senate Candidate Skye Kakoschke-Moore, “but Senators Patrick and Griff will at least progress the bill to a Senate Committee. "We will take the legislation to the next election with a view to pressing the next Government to support it or an alternate action plan to save the river.”

“It’s time we accepted the production of cotton for export, effectively the export of water, is incompatible with the health of the rivers in the absence of other substantial reforms to water management,” said Skye. “Neither the Coalition Government, nor 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.”

"Noting the gravity of the current situation across the river system and the lacklustre response from Federal and state governments to the SA Royal Commission, it is now necessary to open debate on a strong and definitive measure to save the Murray-Darling," said Centre Alliance candidate for Barker, Kelly Gladigau.

"This legislation is one of absolute priority for Centre Alliance," said Senator Stirling Griff.

Senator Patrick will give notice that he is introducing the bill in the Senate on Tuesday the 12th of February and will formally introduce it on Wednesday the 13th. Rebkeha Sharkie will introduce the same bill in the House of Representatives on Monday the 18th.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

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