The Gillard Government’s decision to defer spending on vital water-saving infrastructure threatens the acceptance of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said.
“Labor’s deferral of $941 million in water efficiencies to 2015-16 proves it has no desire to fix aging Murray-Darling infrastructure, and would rather lazily buy water out of irrigation communities.
“Irrigated produce in Victoria accounts for between 31.3 and 38.7 per cent of all agricultural production gross value.
“It’s estimated fruit production generates 15.9 direct jobs per gigalitre of water used, while for every gigalitre used in grazing 4.2 direct jobs are created.
“This decision means river communities will be forced to endure even more delays to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, leaving farmers, irrigators, local businesses and entire communities in limbo.
“Uncertainty over the viability and survival of their farms, businesses and towns will now linger indefinitely.”
The Nationals Senator said the government has failed to listen: Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales don’t want any more irrigation water purchased.
“Instead, they want water obtained through infrastructure efficiencies and environmental watering plans, which the budget deferral of $941 million stops dead.
“The states’ large rejection of the MDBP has failed to register with the Teflon-coated Gillard Government, acting on political survival rather than for the public good,” Senator McKenzie said.
At a Murray Darling Basin Authority meeting in Swan Hill earlier this year Craig Knowles acknowledged if 30 per cent of water was purchased from irrigation communities, it would have “damaging, severe, [and] devastating effects”.
“Victorian communities are fast approaching that figure, and they’re gravely worried,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The government clearly recognises what it’s doing, and plans to improve infrastructure were seen by irrigators as the only way forward.
“Murray-Darling communities have already been put through the ringer financially and emotionally, and the Basin Plan’s proposal to permanently reduce water availability will continue to see a downward trend in loss of production.
“Labor should stop playing politics with people’s lives.”