Water

Trying to force quit?

By Country News

Shadow Water Minister Tony Burke has been accused of trying to force Victoria and NSW to leave the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Speak Up claims that it’s the ‘‘inevitable conclusion’’ to draw from Mr Burke’s recent comments during which he pledged to remove the cap on buybacks and return to the original socio-economic test, if Federal Labor is elected.

Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall said he believed the statements were merely a push to blow up the plan, or force other states to do so.

‘‘This is a bi-partisan plan developed when Mr Burke was water minister. It is obviously failing and it does not appear that politicians on either side of the fence can solve this social, economic and environmental disaster they have created,’’ he said.

‘‘So perhaps Mr Burke’s goal is to force the state governments — Labor and Coalition — to simply walk away from it.’’

Mr Marshall said in 2012 Mr Burke told the National Press Club that the figure of 2750Gl to be recovered under the plan was determined because there was not significant environmental benefit from recovering more than this, primarily due to river constraints issues.

‘‘This is absolutely correct, as we have seen. So if Mr Burke knows it is pointless recovering extra water because it will not fit down the system, why is he now advocating the purchase of more water from farmers, supposedly for environmental flows that will only cause potentially catastrophic floods?’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘He also promised we would have a neutrality test to protect our regions from social and economic damage. This was established by state ministers in December, and now Mr Burke says he wants it ripped up.

‘‘His latest position is such an about-face that we can only conclude he wants the four states involved in the basin plan to withdraw their support, and then a plan will not exist.’’