Vic holds firm on national water plan

By Lucy Skuthorp
Updated January 5 2016 - 6:14pm, first published August 2 2007 - 11:00pm

NEW Victorian Premier John Brumby says he will not bow to pressure to sign on to a national water plan that does not meet his State’s demands.Steve Bracks last week resigned from the Premier’s post just days after vowing to fight a proposed takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin by the Commonwealth even if it meant going to the High Court.However, soon after being sworn in as Mr Bracks replacement, Mr Brumby told the metropolitan media he would not be swaying from his predecessor’s line and described the Commonwealth plan as “ill-conceived”.“If, in their legislation, the Common-wealth comes out with the Victorian model, we’ll support it,” Mr Brumby told The Australian newspaper.Mr Brumby was unavailable for further comment this week.Federal Minister for Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said earlier this week that while he was hoping for a change of heart from the new Premier, John Brumby, he wasn’t expecting one.“Three states put their hands up and said yes we’ll be behind it and then Steve Bracks said no,” Mr Turnbull said, speaking on Channel 9.“Victoria, which is part of the Murray-Darling Basin, didn’t want to be defined as part of the Basin for the purpose of the Commonwealth Law and this was the fundamental problem. What Victoria was asking for was a special deal that we couldn’t agree to. “We will have a basin-wide water plan, a basin-wide cap, we’ll have a basin-wide plan for salinity, we’ll have a basin-wide environmental water plan and most importantly we will have more than 10 years, $10-billion of investment.”The Prime Minister still hasn’t given up hope of having a whole-of-basin plan, indicating this week that infrastructure funding could still be available for Victoria if it wanted to sign up to the plan later.The Government is expected to introduce its legislation for the $10 billion reform of the river system – including the proposal to assume national control of some areas of management of the basin – when Parliament resumes next week.And compulsory acquisition of irrigation licences could still happen under the plan because the government has not spelt out in the legislation its promise that it will not forcibly remove water entitlements.Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce said key promises made to farmers by the government had not been properly clarified in the draft laws, and until the legislation reflected the government’s commitment to irrigators that no rights would be eroded under the plan, it would not have his support.He said independent legal advice given to the Queensland Farmers Federation revealed the government could compulsorily acquire water because the legislation does not say otherwise. He said variations to water licences must be compensated, but this too needed clarification in the legislation.Senator Joyce said the legislation was not removed from ministerial or political intervention, which he disagreed with, and argued a period of review must also be inserted into the laws before it had his support.“For this plan to work, irrigators need these details spelt out in black and white,” Senator Joyce said. “This is not jumping at shadows and it is not an attempt to sink the plan. But the guarantees given to farmers in February are not present in the plan, and the legislation does not match the agreement with farmers.”The National Farmers Federation will release the findings from its technical review of the draft legislation today or tomorrow, which should show where the government has stuck to its word, and where more words are needed to clarify the deal.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to all our agricultural news across the nation

or signup to continue reading

All articles from our website & app
The digital version of This Week's Paper
Breaking news alerts direct to your inbox
All articles from the other in your area

Get the latest VIC news in your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

We care about the protection of your data. Read our Privacy Policy.