The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie has slammed the Greens for failing to attend yesterday’s Senate inquiry into two amendments to the Water Act.
“Greens leader Christine Milne wants to reach out to rural and regional Australia, yet none of the party’s Senators turned up to an inquiry into legislation that will affect Murray Darling Basin communities for decades.
“It’s further proof the Greens don’t understand the nature of the Basin and would prefer the government rip more than 3200 gigalitres from it, rather than strive for a sustainable outcome for the river and those who depend on it.”
The amendments – Water Amendment (Long Term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012 and Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012 – are key components that support the development of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The Senate Environment and Communications Legislative Committee heard conservation groups would prefer the government purchase water from Murray Darling Basin communities, rather than invest in water-saving infrastructure supported by these amendments.
In Adelaide for the inquiry, Senator McKenzie said the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Conservation Council of SA and the River Lakes and Coorong Action Group demonstrated little compassion for Basin communities.
“There was no balance shown by these groups, which illustrates the difficulty in getting a consensus on the Basin plan.
“The non-strategic water buybacks these groups support are a quick fix to help the environment, but are devastating Basin communities.”
The inquiry also heard communities across the Basin may be subject to severe flooding under higher river flows, as proposed by the Basin plan.
“This is a particular concern for the communities in the upper catchments of Victoria, towns like Wodonga, Shepparton and Yea,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Mark McKenzie, Chief Executive of Murray Valley Winegrowers, doubted the ability of levy systems to cope, putting landholders, businesses and communities at increased risk of flood damage.”
Senator McKenzie said the plan must be balanced.
“Regional Victoria needs a plan that doesn’t decimate communities and at the same time meet sustainable outcomes.”