Feb 21, 2023 | Media Releases, Media Releases 2023

Claims by Labor Party Ministers, Plibersek and Close that buybacks don’t hurt communities have been debunked by the lived experience of farmers and the communities they support as well as Government’s own reports.

The Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey, said multiple Government commissioned reports such as the Sefton Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Murray–Darling Basin Report and Aither Supply Side Drivers of Allocation Price Report point to negative impacts of water buybacks.

Senator Davey noted the Aither report said in 2014-15 ‘… the difference between modelled annual median prices with and without Commonwealth purchases is $24 per ML, increasing from $88 to $112 per ML.’

“A 25% impact on prices as a result of buybacks is a large impact in anyone’s language,” Senator Davey said.

“Couple the impacts of a shrinking productive pool with trade which has seen water move from upstream communities to permanent horticulture in the Lower Murray, some communities are struggling.

“Statements made by the SA Water Minister claiming water buybacks haven’t had an impact on communities because there has been a growth in irrigated area in SA highlight a complete lack of knowledge of what has been occurring in the Basin since the Basin Plan was gazetted.

“It is unfortunate the SA Minister hasn’t been well briefed on the ‘shortfalls’ work that has been done by an independent panel for Ministerial Council of which she is a member.

“It highlights that capacity through the Barmah-Millewah Chokes is reducing and the Lower Murray is facing a shortfall of 80Gl/year – that is water which will not be able to be delivered to permanent plantings in the Lower Murray including South Australia.

“Couple that with less water in the consumptive pool available for purchase and I can understand why South Australian irrigators are also now expressing concerns about the impact of buybacks.

“Both Minister Plibersek and Close miss the point when they make mirror statements about the supposed hypocrisy of allowing foreign ownership of water while opposing buybacks. 

“The argument is baseless because a foreign company who buys the water does not take it out of the productive pool and it can still be used by towns, cities and farmers or traded. Commonwealth buybacks allow none of that.

“Whilst these two Ministers are attempting a racist dog whistle with their argument, it should be noted that neither of these Ministers have ever opposed any foreign purchases of water entitlements under their Governments watch,” Senator Davey said.