Cotton Australia, irrigators take ABC to task over reporting bias

Monday, 28th May 2018 // Breaking News, Media Releases, Featured // Comments (0)

Cotton Australia has joined the growing chorus of farming representative organisations calling for the ABC to embrace fair and balanced reporting.

The call comes after ABC TV reported on floodplain harvesting mechanisms in northern NSW on Sunday night (27/5/18). However, in doing so it reported opinion as fact.

"The average viewer of that ABC TV segment would have reasonably drawn the conclusion that irrigators had been extracting new or additional water without permission or a licence - however, this is simply not the case," says Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray. “Furthermore, it suggested new regulation would allow even more extraction.”

"The fact is that the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy has been a work-in-progress for more than a decade. It was developed by both sides of politics but is only now in the final states of implementation."

"In 2012 the NSW Government finalised the floodplain harvesting framework, and is now introducing a compliance package via its Water Reform Action Plan (WRAP)."

"Under the WRAP, irrigators will have to conform to a new, multi-tier compliance regime under which individual irrigators must report on current levels of take against historic extractions. In other words, irrigators will now have to comply with more regulation, not less."

Cotton Australia refutes many of the 'facts' put forward by the ABC in its segment, asserting that:

  • Floodplain harvesting is legal and an important part of the water resource management mix in north-western NSW. It has been regulated since the Water Act of 1912
  • The policy which authorises the issuing of water licences is explicit that it cannot lead to increased water extractions
  • While irrigators will be issued with a volumetric licence under the new regime, total valley water use cannot exceed what was allowed under the 1993-4 Murray Darling Basin Cap

"The reality is that both state and federal regulators have worked to improve their systems since allegations of inappropriate water use were raised in mid-2017 - allegations, we should point out, that have yet to be tested in court."

"However, it is bitterly disappointing to cotton growers and other irrigating farmers that the ABC continues to portray our water management system as a lawless free-for-all in which irrigators take what they want. This could not be further from the truth."

"The simple reality is that Australia has the most highly regulated water management system in the world, a system that faces even more scrutiny and regulatory oversight than it did 12 months ago."

Mr Murray says Cotton Australia and other groups representing irrigators have written formally to ABC's management to address issues of bias.

"It is disappointing, but clear, that there is an undercurrent in the ABC pushing an agenda that opposes irrigated agriculture in rural Australia. This is particularly disappointing, given the fact that many rural Australians rely entirely on the ABC for their news, with little access to alternative broadcasters," Mr Murray says.

"It is time for the ABC to honour its commitments to its own editorial policies and inject some much-needed rigour into its reporting, particularly regarding accuracy and impartiality. We call on the ABC's management to address these concerns and outline its proposed response as soon as possible."


Cotton Australia is the peak representative body for Australia’s cotton growing industry.


Cotton Australia media contacts:

Michael Murray
General Manager, Cotton Australia
0427 707 868


Chris Larsen
Communications Manager, Cotton Australia
0488 189 502


Download this media release.