National Farmers' Federation

Government cannot dodge bullet in looming Basin Plan

WITH Tony Burke taking over the Water portfolio ahead of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) releasing its much-anticipated guide to the draft Basin Plan on 8 October, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) expects his experience as Agriculture Minister to be a key factor in the Government’s policy response.
“It was alarming during the election campaign that Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed a Labor Government to do “what is necessary” to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Authority plan,” NFF President David Crombie declared.
“Surely that cannot mean simply blindly accepting the MDBA recommendations?
“Governments are elected to govern, not abrogate decision-making or responsibility to unelected bureaucrats. The MDBA may make recommendations and we respect its independence, but we likewise expect the Government to determine, and be responsible for, what measures actually hit the ground and to deliver support for affected communities.
“We will not sit back and allow the Government to dodge it responsibility when changes to water use in the Basin will hit all Australian families.
“Research by Judith Stubbs and Associates released in July 2010, Social and Economic Impacts of Reduced Irrigation Water, found a 50% cut to water use will kill 28,000 jobs in the Basin (many more in knock-on job losses throughout the economy) and $38.9 billion in lost productivity.
“Nationally, the actual cost will hit every Australian household by $380 and, in terms of lost productivity, every Australian household will be $5,400 worse off.
“We expect Tony Burke to draw upon his three years as Agriculture Minister to ensure commonsense in the Government’s consideration of agriculture, environmental and social impacts of tinkering with water flows in the Basin.
“Agricultural production and environmental water are not at loggerheads. In fact, they are co-dependent in sensibly managing water use and flows across the Basin. Water must be managed to provide certainty so farmers can get on with food production without compromising environmental needs.
“For example, we are pitching to Tony Burke the need for water-saving capital works in key areas of the Basin to achieve water efficiencies – thereby, reducing the need for water cuts while still delivering the necessary water for environmental assets, such as wetlands. We are very concerned that the MDBA will fail to consider these innovative solutions.
“We remain deeply disturbed about the way the Basin Plan is being developed within the MBDA and the lack of information in our regional communities. We expect the Government to make sensible, balanced decisions on the Basin’s future.”
The NFF has released Understanding the Basin Plan today, a plain English overview of the processes and expectations ahead.

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