Scathing response to Labor's rivers plan

Scathing response to Labor's rivers plan


Water
POLITICAL PLAY: The Federal Opposition's proposals for the Murray Darling Basin Plan are as much about politics as the environment, says former National Irrigators Council head Tom Chesson. He says it's all about winning marginal SA electorates.

POLITICAL PLAY: The Federal Opposition's proposals for the Murray Darling Basin Plan are as much about politics as the environment, says former National Irrigators Council head Tom Chesson. He says it's all about winning marginal SA electorates.

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The Federal Opposition's plans to rewind sections of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, if it wins the upcoming election, have been roundly condemned by industry...

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The Federal Opposition's plans to rewind sections of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, if it wins the upcoming election, have been roundly condemned by industry bodies as pandering to South Australian voters.

Opposition Water spokesman Tony Burke last week reiterated his party's commitment to repealing the 1500-gigalitre cap on buybacks.

Mr Burke said Labor would also restore the original socio-economic definition, for delivering the 450GL environmental water to the system.

"Since that time, the socio-economic test was changed under an agreement with the Federal Liberal Government, that all states signed on to," Mr Burke said.

"What that change in the socio-economic test means is it effectively puts into jeopardy whether the 450GL of water will ever be acquired.

"And without that additional water, you cannot deliver the environmental outcomes that were the purpose of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in the first place."

In December, federal and basin state governments signed an agreement to send 450GL of environmental 'upwater' to SA.

Ricegrowers disgusted

Ricegrowers' Association of Australia president Jeremy Morton said the organisation was disgusted Murray Darling Basin communities were seen as nothing more than cannon fodder, in Labor's quest from the next Federal Government.

Mr Morton described Mr Burke's comments as "political pandering to ill-informed South Australian voters", which displayed little empathy for drought-stricken communities in the other Basin states.

"It seems absurd that a future Labor Government would act against the wishes of the Basin states," Mr Morton said.

He issued what he said was a word of caution, to anyone who wanted to chart a different course, to the currently united view on the implementation of the plan.

Mr Morton described the announcement as "virtue signalling" for political self-interest.

Marginal seats

Former National Irrigators Council chief executive Tom Chesson said for Labor, the Basin Plan had always been about marginal seats in South Australia.

Mr Chesson said it was disappointing that Mr Burke didn't make the announcement in one of the communities, which would feel the greatest impact.

"Tony Burke has had a look at what's happened in the NSW election and is trying to wedge the coalition," he said.

"The announcement was as much about seeking to win seats in South Australia, as helping the environment.

"It's not about NSW or Victoria, he wants to fight, but it's no fun if no-one is fighting."

Mr Chesson said Victorian Labor Water Lisa Neville was the key, as she was opposed to buybacks.

"He (Mr Burke) wants to make it about the coalition, versus the rest, but at the end of the day, the environment doesn't win and communities lose," he said.

Ms Neville has said she would continue to oppose the federal party's plans to remove the cap.

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