Putting water buybacks back on the table during the current flood crisis is a highly cynical move by the Albanese Government, Nationals Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster says.
Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has pushed buybacks again to recover water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan but hidden the detail behind a veil of commercial
“Mallee growers deserve more transparency and respect from their Federal Government,” Dr Webster said.
“With so much water around currently the average person isn’t necessarily worried about the potential lack of it, but that doesn’t mean we can allow Labor to quietly push through these measures that will break the local horticulture industry.”
Dr Webster’s concerns were echoed by Australian Table Grape Association CEO Jeff Scott, who feared the economic impact of buybacks returning to the water market.
“As soon as you take water off the market, it affects the market value,” Mr Scott said.
“With a reduction in supply but the same or higher demand, the price goes up – which hurts our growers.”
Robinvale grower Tony Natale said buybacks would be devastating to the market, driving up prices.
“There is already insufficient water to supply all the licenses … it’s going to make it even more scarce,” he said.
Red Cliffs grower Domenic Sergi, also the secretary-treasurer of the Sunraysia Table Grape Growers Association, said the prospect of buybacks being introduced came at a difficult time for growers and
did nothing but shift the problem.
“It’s kicking the can down the road, in any other industry if there’s a problem they’d manage the environmental issues and find an engineering solution for it,” he said.
“This is basically an easy way of saying I’m not going to take responsibility for it I’m just going to reduce the size of the industry.
“It’s like saying if we were running out of electricity, rather than finding solutions around that you just start telling businesses to shut down – it’s no different.”
Dr Webster said the Government had been warned previously about the impacts of buybacks on regional communities.
‘That’s why the Nationals introduced the socio-economic test for any buybacks and as expected, no additional water could be purchased for environmental purposes because communities would be
“The Labor government needs to learn from history, last time water buybacks were instituted it resulted in a Swiss cheese of horticultural properties when farmers sold off their water and left dry
paddocks,” she said.
“The burden for water infrastructure for remaining properties to pass those dry paddocks fell to farmers – this is not something we want to revisit.
“At the very least we need more transparency. What we don’t need, is buybacks compromising our water market.”