The Albanese Labor Government and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek have sold Victoria down the river by paving the way for devastating water buybacks despite the wishes of their Victorian counterparts, Member for Mallee Anne Webster says.
In announcing a new Murray Darling Basin Plan agreement with support from all but Victorian Labor Water Minister Harriet Shing, Minister Plibersek will allow the widescale resumption of controversial water buybacks.
“Buybacks are devastating for our farming communities along the Murray River, and they are not something the Nationals will stand for,” Dr Webster said.
“I commend Victorian Minister Shing for standing up for our irrigators, despite her Federal colleagues being all to happy to destroy their livelihoods.
“The last time buybacks were implemented we saw a patchwork quilt of properties with and without water – not that Minister Plibersek will ever see this from her Sydney electorate office.”
Dr Webster said Minister Plibersek’s new agreement was at complete odds with the intention of the initial Murray Darling Plan and the safeguards put in place by former Labor water minister Tony Burke.
“Minister Burke put a social and economic neutrality test so that rural communities would not be adversely impacted by water buybacks in pursuit of the plan’s targets, in addition to the extra 450 gigalitres that Labor sought,” Dr Webster said.
“In Government, the Nationals struck an agreement with all states to guarantee that the neutrality test occurred – but now Minister Plibersek has gone back on that in favour of ploughing ahead to meet Labor’s targets.
Dr Webster said the water recovery needed under the Murray Darling Basin Plan can be delivered with water infrastructure rather than water buybacks.
“Buybacks will cost regional communities through lost productivity in our prime horticultural regions and flow on in local economies. But also in all communities around the nation as the higher cost of producing fruit, vegetables, drinks, food and fibre hits family budgets at the supermarket checkout,” Dr Webster said.