Politicians arguing for a ban on cotton exports from Australia have drawn swift rebuke from agricultural leaders.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick is calling for cotton exports to be banned in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the Murray-Darling river system and blaming over-extraction by irrigators.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said a number of city politicians were using farmers as a political weapon to raise their profiles in an election year.
‘‘When farmers across the country feel their most vulnerable from drought and flood they’re being attacked by politicians who have relevance deprivation,’’ Mr Littleproud said.
‘‘Politicians should understand they’re playing with real people’s lives.’’
The Centre Alliance party is based in Adelaide and was formerly the Nick Xenophon Team.
Mr Littleproud said Labor had moved to axe the cap on water buybacks, Centre Alliance wanted to ban cotton exports and the Greens wanted a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
‘‘The so-called Centre Alliance’s plan to end cotton exports would cost 10000 jobs and would not put an extra drop of water into the river system,’’ he said.
‘‘Farmers would use that same water to grow another, less profitable crop.
‘‘Some 90 per cent of our cotton is exported so Centre Alliance’s export ban would shut the whole industry down.
‘‘Further, 90 per cent of Australia’s 1200 cotton farms are family owned and they produce 80 per cent of our cotton.’’
NSW Farmers president James Jackson said farmers were frustrated that Senator Patrick was proposing to ban cotton exports as part of a political stunt ahead of the coming federal election.
‘‘It is just wrong to say that banning the export of cotton, effectively banning the growing of cotton in Australia, will put more water in our rivers,’’ Mr Jackson said.
‘‘Irrigators who grow cotton do so because they have the ability to use the water they buy legally for the best economic purpose they can.
‘‘Australia’s cotton growers are some of the most efficient cotton growers on the planet; irrigated cotton is only grown when there is sufficient water to grow it.’’
Senator Patrick is a former submariner who served with the Royal Australian Navy, and has been critical of the management of defence contracts by people whom, in his opinion, did not have sufficient experience.