The new agreement struck by the Federal Government and all but one basin State to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including the additional 450gig is a case of playing politics over good policy to the detriment of river communities and the rising cost of food and fibre, says Member for Barker Tony Pasin MP.


The Murray Darling Basin is home to 2.6 million people who rely on the river to generate economic activity providing local jobs, producing about 40 per cent of Australia’s food and fibre and generating $22 billion of agricultural output each year multiplying to around $80 billion up and down the supply chain.


“This water is vital for basin communities, the local economies, and our national food security. Using buybacks to take water out of productive use will destroy jobs in our regions and add to cost of living pressures for all Australians,” Mr Pasin said.


“Less water available for primary production means higher prices for what water remains on the market and lower production means higher prices in the shops,”


“To put it simply, the water buyback policy is essentially a tax on the fruit, nuts, wine grapes, vegetables, rice, cotton, dairy and sugar grown in the basin, at a time when Australian’s can least afford it,” Mr Pasin said.


“Orange juice, for example, has already increased 6 per cent in a 12 month period according to the latest figures from the ABS. More expensive water for our growers, will mean even higher prices on our supermarket shelves, and consumers opting for cheaper, imported alternatives. What impact will that have on local jobs?” Mr Pasin said.


The former Coalition Government vowed never to use buy backs to recover environmental water, investing instead in initiatives to improve water use efficiency and deliver environmental outcomes for the basin with infrastructure projects.


“We know there are other ways to recover water for the environment. Our primary producers are some of the most innovative in the world. We have seen firsthand water being recovered for the environment through efficiencies and increased infrastructure.”


“This new agreement is extremely concerning for river communities in SA. The additional 450gig recovered from the Southern Basin could lead to more than $500 million in lost agricultural production each year. It’s no wonder the Victorian Government refused to agree. Susan Close and Peter Malinauskas should be ashamed. They have turned their backs on the South Australia’s river communities who are still grappling with flood recovery.”


“No doubt there are willing sellers. There are also desperate sellers with many irrigators already under immense financial pressure from declining international market access and skyrocketing energy prices,” Mr Pasin said.


“The issue is this water is being sold for the final time, not to be used on a different crop by a different farmer, but taken out of the market altogether,” Mr Pasin said.


Labor’s approach to water policy stands in stark contrast to the development of the Basin Plan which was supported by both major parties.


In 2012, previous Labor Water Minister Tony Burke wrote into the Basin plan that all recovery projects for the additional 450GL must have neutral or positive economic impacts.


In 2018, all Basin Water Ministers signed an agreement for how to assess projects to ensure they had neutral or positive economic impacts to protect their respective Basin communities.


“This was deliberately written into the plan in relation to the 450gig because of the devastation experienced with previous buyback policies,” Mr Pasin said.


“Tanya Plibersek and Susan Close have all but abandoned this important principle and sold our irrigators and our irrigation communities up the river,” Mr Pasin said.


Media Contact: Charlotte Edmunds 8724 7730