National Farmers' Federation

Communities thrown under the bus in Greens water deal

Farming communities fear a deal announced today between the Government and the Greens will see their concerns about water buybacks ignored in favour of cheap politics.

National Farmers’ Federation President David Jochinke said when presented with the choice to listen to communities and negotiate on sensible changes, Minister Plibersek had opted to give rural Australia the cold shoulder.

“This is the worst possible outcome for the Basin Plan,” Mr Jochinke explained.

“You know the Minister has let this process go completely off the rails when you have South Australian Greens dictating water policy. The process has become a shambles and the credibility of the Basin Plan has been sold down the river.

“This deal makes it crystal clear the Government is completely out of touch and doesn’t give a stuff about communities. 

“Their lip service about what’s best for communities is completely disingenuous. They’re only interested in the politics and whatever sleazy backroom deal can keep hold of inner-city marginal seats at the expense of jobs and livelihoods in the Basin.

“The Plan has always been bipartisan and had the full support of Basin states. That’s now coming unravelled as the Minister attempts to bully and bulldoze senators, states and stakeholders into submission.”

“This deal doesn’t guarantee better environmental outcomes. What it guarantees is a buybacks-led approach that will drive a 700GL wrecking ball through Basin towns and push up the price of food.”

Mr Jochinke is currently in the Basin town of Shepparton where a major demonstration is underway with tractors and heavy machinery convoying in opposition to further water buybacks.

“This deal ignores the communities who have turned out in their thousands over the past week pleading for their towns to be spared.

“The 5000 people who have rallied in Basin communities didn’t turn out because they had nothing better to do. They know what this Buybacks Bill means for their communities. The

Minister sitting in her inner-city office in downtown Sydney clearly does not.

“Nobody has been to speak with these communities, and nobody has come clean on what this rewrite will mean in terms of lost jobs, school closures and higher food prices.”    

Mr Jochinke called on crossbench senators to push for sensible amendments which keep protections in place for communities.

“We need crossbench senators to inject some common sense here and force the Government back to the table to restore trust and consensus around the Plan.

“The Basin Plan has always included checks and balances to limit the harm to Basin towns. What the Labor-Greens Bill does is remove these limits to green light uncontrolled buybacks no matter the cost to communities.

“The Labor-Greens deal does nothing to put smarter options on the table to help the environment. If the Government had spent more time talking to communities and less time negotiating with the Greens we’d be seeing better outcomes. Where is the opportunity to explore leasebacks, or complementary measures like fish ladders or carp control? 

“This Labor-Greens buybacks deal would be a timebomb for rural communities. We’re pleading with crossbench senators not to light the fuse.”

Mr Jochinke called out the Minister for Environment and Water for confecting a false timeline to avoid scrutiny and consultation.

“The idea that this needs to pass this week is nonsense. The Minister could pass changes to the timeline this week and buy time to sit down with communities and hear their concerns.

“The Plan took nearly a decade to come together. We shouldn’t be held over a barrel to rush through a major rewrite in just 90 days,” Mr Jochinke concluded.