News the Labor Government will extend the Basin Plan deadlines are welcome, if not 16 months late according to Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey.
“It is disappointing to the see the Water Minister trying to rewrite history to justify why she failed to act sixteen months ago when she was told in her first briefings that the timeframes to deliver the basin plan were unrealistic,” Senator Davey said.
“Unfortunately, despite today’s announcement the Basin Plan’s deadline will be extended, no one is any the wiser about what the Albanese Government has planned for communities in the Murray Darling Basin.
“The overtly partisan approach by the Labor in both opposition and government stands in stark contrast to the development of the Basin Plan which was supported by both the Coalition and the then Labor Government.
Senator Davey rejected claims the Basin Plan was behind schedule because the Liberals and Nationals “sabotaged” its delivery saying much of the implementation of the plan is dependent on states and out of Federal Government control.
“If the Minister is talking about the 450, it was not the Nationals who wrote in the Basin Plan that it must only be pursued if it delivers ‘positive or neutral’ social and economic outcomes,” Senator Davey said.
“The Liberals and Nationals just honoured the criteria written by Tony Burke in 2012 and we worked with the Basin Ministerial Council, at the time made up evenly of Labor and Coalition members, to develop the social and economic test which was then agreed in 2018.
“If the 450 can’t be delivered in the way Tony Burke envisaged, and was agreed to with the States then it should not be delivered. I believe he wrote the Plan that way because he listened to the communities and I ask the current Minister to do the same.
“As the Minister is aware, it is the States who are responsible for delivering key components of the Basin Plan and in Government, we worked collaboratively with State Governments of all colours.
“Those of us who live in the Basin know what droughts look like and we know that models aren’t the answer when entitlements held by water users including environmental water agencies don’t have water allocated to their entitlements during big droughts.
“It was then Labor Water Minister, Tony Burke who made it clear the Basin Plan was not a plan for droughts, and that rivers will go dry if it we have record breaking temperatures and no rain.
‘The MDBA has made it clear the ‘Basin Plan can’t prevent droughts’ and the basin plan was about building ‘resilience’ into our wetlands and basin environmental assets.”
Senator Davey said at the end of the day, the Basin Plan must be about environmental outcomes, not arbitrary numbers on a page.
“If the Government wants to talk about how to deliver the Basin Plan with new ideas and new concepts that will improve our environmental resilience, my door is always open.
“I will not, however, consider plans to prioritise or allow increased buybacks that hurt Basin communities and have flow on impacts that will cost every Australian in the long run,” Senator Davey said.