The Albanese Labor Government has rightly extended the Murray Darling Basin Plan deadline beyond 2024, but not without Water Minister Tanya Plibersek adopting a partisan approach.
Member for Mallee Anne Webster said the Minister has not assisted the debate by using terms like ‘guerilla warfare’ and ‘sabotage’ in announcing the delay.
“In her first briefings 16 months ago, the Minister was told that the timeframes to deliver the basin plan were unrealistic,” Dr Webster said.
“She failed to act then and is now trying to rewrite history, when in fact when the former Coalition Government worked very hard to preserve regional communities that were devastated by Labor’s water buyback programs.
“The Minister rails against slow progress on water recovery, but the deliberate approach has been to ensure communities were not harmed by buybacks. Labor’s then-Water Minister Tony Burke authored the criteria that water recovery must only be pursued if it delivers ‘positive or neutral’ social and economic outcomes,” Dr Webster added. “The Coalition just honoured that when it developed the social and economic test, agreed to by the evenly bipartisan Basin Ministerial Council in 2018.
“As the Minister is aware, it is the States who are responsible for delivering key components of the Basin Plan and in Government, the Coalition worked collaboratively with State Governments of all colours,” Dr Webster said.
“Now we’ve got Labor Governments throughout the Basin, and noting Victoria’s aversion to buybacks, what we don’t want to see is the Minister’s harmful carte blanche approach back on the table.
“The Minister needs to listen to stakeholders such as the National Farmers’ Federation and irrigation communities who are making sensible proposals for water recovery through efficiency projects, not buybacks, because the latter will cause great damage in River communities.”