Group calls for all parties to support water amendment

The NSW Murray Valley’s leading water advocacy group is encouraging Australia’s major political parties to “improve their understanding of water management” before jumping to incorrect conclusions or basing decisions on past advice.

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It follows an amendment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan introduced by National Party Senators this week, which failed to get support from either of the major parties.

The amendment would effectively remove the controversial 450 gigalitres of ‘upwater’ from the plan, that many claim cannot be achieved without significant social, economic and environmental damage.

The Murray Regional Strategy Group, which represents community, farming and Indigenous groups, says it supports the amendment and believes if the major parties put the welfare of Australia ahead of political point scoring, they would also see the benefits.

“Our water management needs are continually changing, with the impacts of climate change and improved knowledge around how to most effectively use this precious resource,” said MRSG chair Geoff Moar.

“Unfortunately, we have a changing world but a stagnant Basin Plan. It is not being adjusted or showing the flexibility that is required. That is why The Nationals introduced their amendment in the Senate; because it’s common-sense,” he said.

Mr Moar said he hoped all politicians would prioritise what was best for their nation, rather than their political futures, when considering the amendment. However, comments this week suggest that is not likely to be the case.

“It was disappointing to hear Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham continue with the crazy line that the Basin Plan must be completed ‘in full and on time’,” Mr Moar said, adding he was also disappointed that the Liberals gagged debate on amendments in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

“As Minister for Finance, if Senator Birmingham is in charge of funding an infrastructure project worth billions of dollars that is failing, does he continue to get it completed ‘in full or on time’ regardless, or does he make the necessary adjustments? Surely, common-sense tells us that making adjustments is the way to go.”

Mr Moar also encouraged Labor Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler to recall her visit to the region and convince her colleagues of the need to adjust the Basin Plan, including those from South Australia.

“I understand that from a political perspective that it is difficult for different parties to take a balanced, multi-state view of the Basin Plan. However, that is what we need.

“If Labor wants to help regional communities and deliver an improved Basin Plan, it can do so by supporting the amendment.

“The actions of the major parties in the Federal Parliament are particularly disappointing when you consider the positions of the Victorian and NSW Governments, Labor and Liberal respectively, who have both called for changes to the Basin Plan.”

Mr Moar said it had become extremely challenging for Murray Valley communities to maintain sustainable food production when they continue to be used as political pawns by major parties who prioritise winning votes in important marginal seats over national wellbeing.

“On this occasion, it would be a welcome change to see food security, farmer welfare and overall benefit to our nation surpass the political games that we have seen in the past. To achieve this, all parties need to support the amendment when the Senate report is completed,” he said.

June 24, 2021

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