Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

A controversial deal between Greens and the Labor Government to take water away from farmers in our region for the environment passed the Senate yesterday, and is now set to pass the Parliament.

Described by Labor as a bill to “rescue the Murray-Darling Basin Plan”, the deal has been widely condemned for destroying the broad bipartisan support that the plan had enjoyed until now, failing to consider the communities that will be impacted, delivering little environmental benefit, and ultimately driving up cost of living by making food more expensive. A key component of the deal is re-introducing water buybacks and specifically targeting the Northern Basin – which includes most of the New England and surrounding areas – as where they intend to get the water from.

Comments yesterday from Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water, emphasised the partisan nature of the deal.

“The Liberals and Nationals spent a decade waging a guerrilla war against the Plan. They never intended to deliver the Plan, in fact they actively undermined it at every turn, and they lied to communities about it.”

“In contrast, we’ve worked with people across the Parliament to strengthen this legislation and make it law. This is what good government does – it works collaboratively in the national interest,” she said.

National’s Deputy Leader and water spokesperson, Senator Perin Davey, said they were working in good faith on a deal that struck a balance between the environment and communities, but the Government chose to spend $150 million of taxpayer’s money to secure the deal with city politicians. The Greens secured $100m in funding for Indigenous water purchases, and Canberra Senator David Pocock secured an additional $50m for the upper Murrumbidgee catchment area (which covers the ACT) in return for his support for the legislation.

“Communities throughout the Basin now know what they are worth to Labor, the Greens, and City-based politicians who have just sold them down the river for a pittance,” Senator Davey said.

“Through questions in the Senate we learned that the Government has no idea what the social and economic impacts will be and are not prepared to disclose how much they will spend to get the water they want.”

“At a time when Australians are suffering cost of living pressures, they are now being forced to fund a massive job destroying policy which will decrease the nation’s productivity, drive up the cost of living, and see more imported food on our supermarket shelves whilst diverting billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funding from health, education, roads, and housing.”

Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton has condemned the passing of amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as a dark day for Australia.

“People with no skin in the game have sacrificed the communities of the Murray-Darling Basin at the altar of political expediency,” Mr Coulton said.

“While Minister Plibersek and Senator Wong have a laugh and celebrate the return of water buybacks, they fail to realise the devastation they will wreak on Australian agriculture, and individual communities along the rivers.”

“The idea that using water buybacks to return an extra 450 gigalitres to the river systems will prevent drought and solve all environmental problems is a myth.”

“Taking water from the North of New South Wales and sending it downstream does not prevent drought and will not create a utopia, because rivers rely on rain and Australia is a land of drought and flooding rain – especially in the Northern Basin,” he said.

Mr Coulton predicted the changes would remove agricultural production, jobs and productivity from communities which are almost entirely reliant on the agriculture industry.

“Australia will pay for this ideological foolishness at the checkout, and in losses of Australian-made produce.”

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