The strong stance by several politicians to support regional communities under unnecessary threat of economic decline has been applauded by Riverina-based irrigator activists.
The Federal Labor Party this week decided to support a Greens’ disallowance motion over the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in what is regarded as a move that could jeopardise the entire plan.It led to threats from the Victorian Labor Government and the NSW Coalition Government to withdraw from the plan.
They have received strong backing from Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, who told Parliament she could be forced to do something, “I never thought I would”; that is, urge the State Water Ministers to withdraw.
The community group Speak Up applauded Ms Ley and the Victorian and NSW Governments, with spokesperson Shelley Scoullar saying it was, “about time we put an end to the political horse-trading that has continually derailed sensible water policy”.
“It looks like those who want to destroy rural communities, yet seem to have little idea of what balanced water policy is all about, may have gone a step too far this time.
“We urge Sussan Ley, Lisa Neville (Victorian Water Minister) and Niall Blair (NSW Water Minister) to stand their ground. It’s time the bullying stopped.
We all want a balanced Basin Plan, but unfortunately for some people it’s nothing more than a political tool in their quest to win ‘green’ votes and elections.
“They have been playing with our lives for too long. Enough is enough.”
Mrs Scoullar also congratulated Murray-Darling Basin Authority chairman Phil Glyde who has entered the political debate and warned that failure to support amendments before Parliament placed the Basin Plan in a position where it was in danger of collapse.
“What we find hard to swallow is that the Labor position is led by Shadow Water Minister Tony Burke, who signed off on the original legislation in 2012 with his promises in legislation that rural communities would be protected,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“Now he’s happy to break those promises, including his legislative guarantee that the additional 450 gigalitres of ‘up water’ would only be delivered with no adverse social and economic impacts.
“It has been proved beyond doubt this cannot be achieved, yet Mr Burke insists it goes ahead.
“It is impossible for our communities to accept this about face.”
Mrs Scoullar said with the disallowance motion from the Greens on the MDBA’s recommended changes to the Northern Basin being supported by Mr Burke and Labor, those in the Southern Basin fear the same political games will be played when the Sustainable Diversion Limits projects are submitted to Parliament.
These are designed to provide more environmental water through efficiency measures.
“Like the Northern Basin amendments, the South Australian Government has withdrawn its support for the SDLs so these may also be in jeopardy.
“It’s extremely hard to comprehend the South Australian position, and even harder to work out why it would be supported by Federal Labor, unless it’s an election stunt to try and help SA Labor retain government.”
Mrs Scoullar said politicians need to stand up to South Australia in the manner Ms Ley, Ms Neville and Mr Blair have done this week, with welcome support from Mr Glyde.
“South Australia needs to be pulled into line on water security. It has been guaranteed secure supply of 1850 gigalitres (3.7 Sydney Harbours) each year before any other water is allocated in the Murray system, and secured a third of the water from Dartmouth Dam when it was built in the 1980s,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“And Adelaide, which is not within the Murray-Darling Basin, has a secure water supply via a pipeline from the Murray River.
“South Australia claims it needs the majority of the 3200 gigalitres to repair the health of the Coorong and Lower Lakes, but refuses to undertake remedial works in the region, or accept that this was an estuarine system that it has turned into a freshwater system.
“If South Australia will not start working collaboratively to achieve a balanced Basin Plan, Ms Neville and Mr Blair should proceed with their threats and withdraw. We congratulate Sussan Ley for supporting this stance.”