Water

Party politics called out

By Country News

State member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has accused Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum of being only interested in party politics, when responding to criticism over her recent vote on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

‘‘Instead of playing party politics, local MPs should be calling all state and federal parliamentarians to first publicly recommit to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and call for a commitment to find a bipartisan solution,’’ Ms Chesters said.

‘‘This week I have had met and spoken directly with multiple stakeholders who have all told me the same thing, that all sides of the aisle need to come to the table with their respective concerns and find a solution.

‘‘Further, there will be no solution or future for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan without the states and that’s part of what makes this area of public policy so complicated.’’

Mr Drum was critical of Labor members who voted with the Greens on a disallowance motion.

‘‘The decision to support the disallowance of the instrument relating to the northern basin was a difficult and tough decision,’’ Ms Chesters said.

‘‘The northern basin still has inadequate metering and NSW still needs to address issues in their water plans which continue to leave open the possibility of environmental water, paid for by the Australian taxpayer, being pumped directly back into irrigation dams.

‘‘Australians need confidence that environmental water paid for by them isn’t diverted to irrigation dams.’’

Federal Labor acknowledges the commitments made to date, particularly the public statements by the NSW Government as well as actions taken to begin to address these issues, but while these serious gaps remain Labor could not support the instrument that was presented.

Ms Chesters said the new water minister needed to update the work that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had already carried out in good faith and to provide better information and analysis in the following areas to restore public confidence in the northern basin review and instrument:

■The need for taxpayer-funded environmental water to be used for environmental purposes.

■A comprehensive response to allegations of corruption/water theft in the northern basin.

■Indigenous consultation and engagement in water planning/governance.

■The accuracy of data and modelling assumptions.

‘‘If these issues with the northern basin are not resolved, communities in the southern basin cannot have confidence in the plan,’’ Ms Chesters said.

She said the basin plan must be delivered in full.