Victoria’s Labor Water Minister Lisa Neville says she’ll continue to oppose the Federal party’s plans to remove the cap on preventing the Government from buying more irrigation water in the Murray-Darling Basin.
State Opposition Water spokesman Steph Ryan said Ms Neville must honor her commitment to write an open letter to Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, denouncing the plan to buy more water from Victorian irrigators.
Ms Ryan said irrigators needed confidence the State government would not bow to the “cheap, popularist politicking of her mates in Canberra.
“Irrigators in northern Victoria are concerned that Ms Neville, who has previously stated the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District would not survive the loss of more water, has softened her language since Bill Shorten announced his plan,” she said.
Labor's water spokesman Tony Burke has said the party wanted to remove restrictions, that could prevent more water being returned to the environment.
He said it would be better to remove the 1500 gigalitre cap, legislated in 2015, than go back to compulsory acquisition.
Read more: Labor backing Murray Darling Basin Plan 2.0
Ms Ryan said water, which would have been used by the equivalent of 4000 average-sized Victorian dairy farms, had already been lost from the north.
“Instead of just tweeting that there’s ‘no room for more buybacks’, Ms Neville needs to detail her concerns – in writing – to Bill Shorten.
“Our irrigators and communities in northern Victoria, particularly those in the GMID, need to know that Ms Neville will put their interests ahead of those of the Labor party.
“Under a Shorten Labor Government, more farms will be dried off and more businesses will shut up shop,” Ms Ryan said.
The Federal opposition’s decision to withdraw support for previously agreed targets under the Basin Plan was devastating to Basin irrigation communities.
Labor had also indicated it would support a review to decrease the sustainable diversion limit.
“These decisions are being made by Labor MPs who care more about votes in the inner city than they do about the impact on rural communities,” Ms Ryan said.
But Ms Neville said she had been “absolutely” consistent, every step of the way, in not supporting buybacks.
“I do not support the proposal, by Federal Labor, around buybacks,” Ms Neville said.
“I tell you, the people who have stood up for the irrigators in the north of Victoria are the Labor Party.”
She said she had made her position clear, in many different forums.
“I have spoken directly to irrigators. I have made it absolutely clear directly to the Federal shadow minister that we do not support further buybacks, and whatever happens in the outcome, that will be our consistent position. “
Ms Neville told State Parliament she made it clear she would continue to speak out against further buybacks.
I do not support the proposal, by Federal Labor, around buybacks.
“I will do whatever I have to continue to oppose further buybacks, whoever is proposing them,” Ms Neville said.
“What I would say is that we should all be on one side on this and we should be standing up for northern irrigators, and I ask you to join us in doing that.”