Murray plan under fire on TV

By Geoff Adams

The Murray-Darling Basin plan was defended and criticised in a robust debate on the ABC weekly television panel discussion, Q and A, on Monday night.

The show took a video question from Natalie Akers from Tallygaroopna, who said northern Victoria produces 80 per cent of the dairy products in the basin.

“But we are at a tipping point. The MDBA’s own analysis shows that northern Victoria has lost 5000 jobs, that’s 2000 more jobs than any other state. 

“The Commonwealth has obtained 25 per cent of water that was once available to farmers.   The basin plan is creating a man-made drought. How can the Minister claim the basin plan has created more certainty for the dairy industry?

Water researcher Maryanne Slattery said the water reforms, including the water market had made things worse and governments have exacerbated the drought.

Federal water minister, David Littleproud said before he became water minister there was a lot of shouting and heated debate.

“WE could have ended up with a lot worse outcome for farmers.

Mr Littleproud said the plan takes 20 per cent of the consumptive pool off farmers, and put it into the environment. We have completed 80 per cent of that plan.  The last 20 per cent can be completed without taking water off farmers. If the states decide to do the constraints process…. We will not need to go near a farmer, and we can complete the plan.’’

Young grazier Kate McBride, from Western New South Wales, said water issues were a little bit caused by the drought but the main issues were other things.

 Maryanne Slattery said both sides of politics were really invested in seeing the Murray Darling Basin Plan continues in its current form and are not willing to have a look at what’s gone wrong in the plan and have a conversation about what should be changed.

“Water reforms have been a structural adjustment by stealth.’’

“The basin plan is a train wreck. We are not going to get better while we pitch the environment against irrigators.’’

NFF president Fiona Simson argued that stakeholders must persist with the plan.

She said the plan is a way of talking together and bringing data and facts into the debate. “Its working better than every man for himself, which is what we had since federation.’’

Ms Simson, responding to a question about the recent Tocumwal protest rally agreed that one thing worse than not having any water wold be seeing it flowing past your back gate.

“However, these are things  we have to make sure we can address.

“The agreement to work across the whole basin. The plan is not about a set and forget type of instrument.

We need to bring in the data and science and understand the effects of the envirornmental watering.  What impact is this having and how can we do it better?
“We have a system in place we have to keep tweaking and fixing.”