National Farmers' Federation

‘Kick in the guts’ to Basin communities as Water Bill passes the Senate 

Families, farmers, businesses and workers across Murray Darling Basin communities have been dealt a sledgehammer blow by the Albanese Government and some crossbench senators who today voted to support a flawed water Bill over sensible, smart solutions for the river system. 

“The Basin’s heart has been broken by a Government that has ignored communities and hasn’t even bothered to visit those who will be impacted by this dreadful backroom deal,” National Farmers’ Federation President David Jochinke said. 

Mr Jochinke said by the Senate passing the Restoring our Rivers Bill, it had effectively removed the socio economic impact tests for water buybacks. 

“Former ALP Water Minister Tony Burke knew in 2012 that buybacks caused hardship for communities and so he explicitly ruled them out for the additional 450 GL of water acquisition. 

“This Government has completely backflipped and ignored their own position, while simultaneously throwing the Plan’s bipartisan support in the bin.” 

The Bill now needs to go back to the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to pass. 

“This will sound the death knell for countless jobs in these communities and will cut food and fibre production in an area that grows 40% of what Australia produces. 

“The impacts will be felt by all Australians at the supermarket checkout.” 

Mr Jochinke said farmers and communities would be furious with the Government which has failed miserably by not listening to the communities who will be directly impacted. 

“The river system is their lifeblood, the people who live along it want the best for it and are willing to work with the Government to achieve the Basin Plan.  

“These communities are still recovering from over 2100GL of buybacks a decade ago. Now another 700GL is the kick in the guts that’s going to hurt so many people. 

“In the past two weeks more than 4000 people took to the streets across four Basin towns to rally against buybacks. 

“Sadly, the Government continues to demonstrate how out of touch it is with rural and regional communities and has let down every single one of those people and the thousands of others who call those communities home.” 

Mr Jochinke said the NFF remained committed to supporting these agricultural communities with what lay ahead. 

“The Government has said buybacks must provide value for the taxpayer and benefit the environment. 

“We will continue to engage with the Government to ensure it doesn’t lose sight of these objectives. 

“The Government has also committed to considering other options and the NFF will continue to vehemently pursue this.” 

Mr Jochinke thanked parliamentarians who had sought to make more workable legislation available and acknowledged there had been some improvements made, such as the extended deadline.