Rural lobby groups say they are ‘appalled’ the Australian Senate has tonight (Wednesday) voted to abandon Northern Basin communities, costing them jobs and reducing river health.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young had moved a disallowance motion to overturn recommendations by the Murray Darling Basin Authority to reduce by 70 gigalitres (Gl) the water recovery target for the Northern Basin within the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The motion was passed with the support of the Labor Party and some of the cross-bench.
“Tonight the Senate threw common sense out the window and gave in to environmental extremism, while at the same time delivering economic and social uncertainty to communities in the Murray Darling Basin,” said Cotton Australian General Manager, Michael Murray.
“And Labor, the architects of the review - inserted when Tony Burke was Minister - has supported the Greens and thrown the bipartisan nature of the plan out the window.”
“The Greens’ disallowance motion has sealed a bleak fate for the Murray Darling Basin, its people and communities, who have every reason to be outraged and dismayed at the politics that have led to this point.”
The Federal Minister for Water Resources and Agriculture, David Littleproud said Labor had “thrown rural communities and farm families into uncertainty” by voting with the Greens to disallow the Northern Basin Review
Mr Littleproud said Labor’s decision to crush its own plan had resulted in NSW pulling out, killing the plan and re-igniting water wars between the states.
“Labor has killed the plan it worked on for years and had created huge uncertainty for thousands of businesses in regional towns which rely on water allocation,” Mr Littleproud said.
“After putting farmers and rural communities through painful uncertainty for several years, Labor does it again. I live with these people. I’ve seen the pain in their eyes caused by uncertainty.
“Farmers need to know how much water they’ll have so they can invest and grow the food Australians eat.
“It’s disgraceful for Labor to kill its own plan just because it helps them in the South Australian election and the Batman by-election.
“The Commonwealth is obligated to try to deliver the original agreement for 2750GL – but without the cooperation of the states and the only tool left available is buybacks.”
Mr Littleproud said the Federal Coalition Government will seek to work with the states to find a way forward to restore the Plan and certainty for farmers and regional communities.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens say billions of litres of environmental water have been “saved from the clutches of greedy corporate irrigators” through the dissallowance motion.
The greens killed the MDBA and a decade of hard work by all. Hope you’re proud of yourselves. All to save An estuary from the ocean.— Bess O'Connor (@Cotton_Wife) February 14, 2018
“We’ve cleared the first hurdle on the road to restoring the Murray Darling Basin Plan back to what it was meant to be; security for the river, and for the environment to get what it needs to survive,” Greens Murray Darling Basin spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“The Senate has stared down the bullying and scare tactics of big corporate irrigators and upstream states who for too long have turned a blind eye to water theft and corruption.
“This is a huge win for the community who have been crying out against the rorting that is rife in the Murray-Darling Basin. For too long every day Australians who live within the Basin have been ripped off, and the Greens won’t stand for it.
“The Murray Darling Basin Plan is being undermined by big corporate irrigators who care more about feathering their own nests at taxpayers’ expense, rather than making sure the river gets what it needs to survive. All over the Basin, I’ve heard horrific accounts of dried riverbeds, dying wildlife, algal blooms and water simply not coming out of the tap while greedy corporate irrigators get more than their fair share and authorities, including the New South Wales and Federal governments, turn a blind eye.
“Communities no longer trust the Murray Darling Basin Plan is working, and they can’t be assured that the Murray Darling Basin Authority, or the Federal Government are doing what is needed to get the Plan back on track.”