It has cost Australians $150 million to secure cross bench support for the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023, yet the final cost to the taxpayer to implement the reform is shrouded in secrecy, according to Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey.
The Albanese Government promised $100 million to the Greens for Indigenous water and $50 million to ACT Senator David Pocock for the upper Murrumbidgee catchment area in return for his support to re-enter the water market to buyback more water.
“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.
“Even those announcements are hollow, with the Indigenous water money actually only $60 million of new money and the Pocock deal a lot of posturing and not a lot of outcomes.
“Meanwhile, the Government is dusting off the cheque book ready to start spending without disclosing to the public what their spending limit is.
“Through questions in the Senate we learned 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.
“What we do know from work done by water industry experts is the cost of this legislation to taxpayers will be in excess of $10 billion. Taxpayers have been mugged.
“At a time when Australian’s are suffering from cost-of-living pressures, they are now being forced to fund a massive job destroying policy which will decrease the nations productivity, drive up the cost of living, see more imported food on our supermarket shelves whilst diverting billions of dollars of taxpayers funding from health, education, roads and housing.
“The Minister representing the Water Minister in the Senate acknowledged buybacks will impact communities and suggested an adjustment package would be developed but she was not able to tell us how much would be in the package or who would be eligible.
“There is nothing in the Bill that has passed the Senate today for Basin Communities and nothing that will guarantee better environmental outcomes.
“The only winners here are the States who get more time – and good for them.
“But at what cost to communities, to jobs and to taxpayers.” Senator Davey said.
In response to calls from communities, amendments moved by Senator Davey for a robust and measurable social and economic test consistent with an existing inter-jurisdictional agreement failed to get the required support.