Continuing on with the extensive work already done on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell , MLC, (One Nation) and Senator Ralph Babet (UAP) conducted a tour of Northern Victoria this week. This cross party tour focused on water, agriculture, health and regional development issues and started in Mildura on April 17th, moving on to Robinvale, Swan Hill and Echuca and ending at Dartmouth Dam on Friday the 21st April.
On Monday in Mildura Senator Babet and Rikkie-Lee Tyrell MLC first met and spoke with the Oz Fish team at the Psyche pump station about their ongoing projects to protect native fish, reduce the impact of carp on the waterways and discussed a number of projects being delivered by Oz Fish such as building habitats for native fish and assisting with native fish breeding.
They then went on a walk/drive tour of Hattah-Kulkyne national park with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority to assess some of the areas where artificial flooding has been successfully integrated, followed by some of the less habitable sections of floodplain. Their tour of the Mildura region concluded with a visit to the Mayor, Liam Wood, and other members from the local council, where they discussed ways of advocating for the needs of Northern Victoria in federal and state parliaments.
On Tuesday morning Senator Babet and Rikkie-Lee Tyrell met with Tassone’s Produce owner, Fred in Robinvale, the business produces table grapes which they export internationally. They discussed issues around water, export market regulations, the labor market and the ongoing viability of primary industry in the region. They also met with Stuart King, the deputy mayor of Swan Hill, to discuss local constituent issues.
On Tuesday afternoon the group met with a dairy industry representative to gain an understanding of how water impacts their industry and Tuesday night Senator Babet and Rikkie-Lee met with the general public at the commercial hotel where they gained further understanding of what matters to the community.
“Meeting the community and taking their concerns back to Canberra is the most important part of my role as a senator,” Senator Babet said. “This is the first time that two members of One Nation and the United Australia Party have come together in the spirit of doing what is best for the people of regional Victoria,” said Senator Babet. “It’s time to put party politics aside and focus on the issues that are important to regional Victorians and deliver results for all. For too long the major parties have focused on the city but have neglected the regions.”
Rikkie-Lee said that she is excited to be working alongside Senator Babet, as they already have a great working relationship, and can focus on achieving real outcomes for Northern Victoria. “With the prospect of immense changes through infrastructure based, artificial flooding in wetland areas, water buy back schemes and reduced water allocation to irrigators. These issues concern the whole region,” she said.
“This river system is of vital importance to an abundance of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Indigenous Cultural heritage is deeply rooted into the system for all its local tribes. It’s also the primary source of income and provides the livelihood for tens of thousands while supporting a plethora of industries that go on to feed the world.”
Senator Babet also noted that the river is central to life in the region, as residents are well aware. “It is a complex beast and the debate around it will go on forever,” he said. “We need to have a well balanced approach to protecting it and the best way to do that is clear communication between the people who rely on it every single day and those in Parliament who make the decisions which impact everyone, this is why the work we are doing is so important.”
Rikkie-Lee believes that a wholistic approach is the only path forward towards finding equitable solutions that actually achieve a social, economic and environmental balance between all stakeholders. Senator Babet agrees.
“These solutions can only be achieved through open dialogue, state and federal representation, cross party cohesion and general input from specialised, local community NGO’s on the ground. These concerns are bigger than the conflict between parties and borders,” he said.
Rikkie-Lee knows the area well, especially the essential nature of water to local primary producers. “As a farmer myself I understand the importance of our water resource, it is our life blood, it feeds our nation and provides a livelihood for too many to count, we must protect this,” she said.
To advocate for all stakeholders in both the federal and state parliaments, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell, MLC and Senator Ralph Babet, are actively developing their own knowledge on the challenges associated with current and future operations. Both Ralph and Rikkie-Lee expect that this will definitely not be their last visit to the region, and note that this is the beginning of a strong working relationship between both the UAP and One Nation, aimed at delivering outcomes for all Victorians.