National Farmers' Federation

NFF calls on crossbenchers to vote against Basin Plan rewrite

As legislation to rewrite the Murray Darling Basin Plan is debated in the House of Representatives this week, farmers are calling on members of the crossbench to reject the Bill.

NFF Water Committee Chair Malcolm Holm said Parliament had a chance to force the Government back to the table to restore consensus.

“The bill is poorly constructed and raises more concerns than it solves. It tears up the plan agreed by environmental experts and communities.

“It terminates bipartisan support for the Plan. It’s lost the support of the states, and it’s lost the support of community and farming groups who have always backed the Plan in good faith.”

The NFF said the Government needed to do its homework on options to improve river health before asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque on buybacks.

“We all want healthy rivers. But there are smart, cost effective interventions the Government can make to get the outcomes we all want.

“Things like carp eradication, fish breeding programs, bank restoration and better wetland management could be done without shutting down a single farm.

“Options to directly invest in outcomes, as well as water efficiency measures, are sitting on the Minister’s desk. If we’re going to fundamentally rewrite the plan these complementary measures should be counted if it’s a genuine attempt to meet strategic environmental outcomes.

“The Government has decided that listening to local knowledge holders and bringing communities along is too burdensome. Instead they’re trying to bulldoze through with a plan to remove socio-economic protections from the Plan, so they can pursue unlimited and unnecessary buybacks.

“We know from Victorian Government modelling that this will cost up to 1,500 jobs and shave $855 million off farm output. That’s devastating for these small communities, and it’s a price every Australian will ultimately pay at the supermarket checkout.

“To ask Parliament to sign a blank cheque for the Minister to shut down farms, squeeze supply and push up food prices, when there’s been no regulatory impact assessment, no consultation with communities, and no assessment of the alternatives is just so irresponsible.

“What this bill does is make our supply chains more vulnerable. Supermarket shelves were empty during COVID. Right now we’re facing the prospect of milk shortages. Once you take farms offline there’s no bringing them back, that’s the permanent impacts of buybacks.

“We’ve not even seen details on how communities would be supported through this painful exercise – just vague platitudes.

“No politician should want to be remembered for supporting this Bill,” Mr Holm concluded.