Environmental outcomes appear to have been swept aside in the chase for numbers under Labor’s revised Murray Darling Basin Plan according to Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey.
“There is a lot to work through with these amendments, but I have always been focussed on maximising the environmental outcomes with minimal social and economic upheaval.
“That will be the test we apply to these amendments, but at first glance, it would appear the number is more important than the outcomes and that is not a good place to start.”
Legislative amendments introduced into Parliament today have changed the objectives of the funding for the oft referenced 450GL as well as weakening social and economic protections for Basin communities.
“It is apparent the goal is now just to transfer 450GL worth of licences to the Government from anywhere in the Basin regardless of whether it can actually be utilised in the way originally envisaged,” Senator Davey said.
“Easing or relaxing constraints used to be fundamental to maximise environmental outcomes and now we have a Government that is taking a ‘no regrets’ policy to constraints and has written off a key partner in addressing them, being the Victorian Government.
“By creating a new classification of water recovery under the 450, against which the social and economic test will not apply, the Minister is effectively admitting that buybacks hurt communities, but that she doesn’t care.
“She says she will compensate those communities impacted, but she doesn’t say how the impact assessment will be made or what the compensation will look like.
“All too often in the past, compensation packages offered by government have been tokenistic when the need is for wholesale economic adjustment.
“As much as we all love painted silos or an upgrade to the footy oval, that in no way compensates for the closure of a rice mill or dairy processing plant.
“These amendments have been introduced following a woeful lack of consultation with affected communities, so the Nationals and Liberals will be pushing for a Senate Inquiry to directly engage with, and hear the concerns of, impacted communities firsthand.”
Senator Davey said the flow on impacts of water leaving irrigation districts goes well beyond the farm gate, which is why the previous government focussed their efforts on off-farm or in-river water savings.
“This Minister says all options are on the table but wants to start with buybacks rather than with new ideas.
“In a cost-of-living crisis, Tanya Plibersek is choosing to take water out of agricultural production which will only further increase the cost of groceries for Australian families,” Senator Davey said.