Concerns about the economic impact on communities and potential for higher prices at the checkout has seen a range of farming groups meet with Nationals and Liberals in Canberra today, to explore ways to protect Australians from the Albanese Government’s push to buyback more water in the Murray Darling Basin.
Murray Darling Basin MP’s and Senators said farming organisations had expressed concerns the Government was pushing forward with buybacks without considering the on the ground effect it will have on the impacted communities.
Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey said the proposed Bill created significant concerns, primarily due to its rewrite of the original Basin Plan, which was intended to balance economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
“We welcome the extended timeframes to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but the Labor Government removing the social and economic neutrality test on recovering the additional 450GL, and resorting to buybacks, is walking away from the bi-partisanship support for the Basin Plan,” Senator Davey said.
“It was Labor who wrote in the Basin Plan that it must only be pursued if it delivers ‘positive or neutral’ social and economic outcomes.
“The Coalition will continue to oppose the Bill in its current form, however we have made it clear to the government that our door is always open to supporting a way forward that doesn’t hurt our communities.”
Shadow Agriculture spokesman and Nationals leader, David Littleproud said farming groups are appalled at the betrayal of trust by the Albanese Government, who are seeking to break a core commitment to Basin communities.
“The Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill 2023 is a fundamental breach of faith and what little trust there was left in the Murray-Darling Basin has now evaporated,” he said.
Liberal Party Deputy Leader and Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley said, “This is a dog act by this government, a dog act by a Prime Minister who said he would leave no one behind.
“As local MPs, we will continue to stand by our farmers and irrigators,” Ms Ley said.
“We’ll fight this in our communities and on the floor or parliament, because this latest Plan pain is completely unnecessary.”
South Australian Member for Barker, Tony Pasin MP said growers in SA’s Riverland were already dealing with high power prices, fruit fly outbreaks and flood recovery.
“Reducing the productive pool of water available will push the price of remaining water up, sending many growers out of business. For others, they will have no choice but to pass the additional costs on to consumers,” Mr Pasin said.
“To put it simply, buybacks are essentially a tax on the food and fibre in the basin, at a time when Australian’s can least afford it.
“When Adelaide households are wondering why they can no longer purchase Aussie grown fresh fruit in the shops they can think back to that Labor press conference on the banks of the River Torrens as the beginning of the end for our Basin communities and their farmers.”
The National Farmers Federation CEO, Tony Maher, stated in a recent press release that Minister Plibersek is asking the Parliament to sign a blank cheque to shut down farms.
“Both the Parliament and the community deserve better. They ought to have clarity on the extent of the buybacks proposed, how socio-economic impacts will be considered, and what engagement will occur to give communities a voice in this process,” he said in the release.