Politicians call for water ministers to walk away from basin plan

By Rodney Woods

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has called for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be ripped up, while a Victorian MP wants Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville to walk away as well.

Speaking during a Budgets Estimates hearing on October 31, Mr Barilaro said if no change was seen, by the end of the year, it was time to pull the plan apart.

“At the end of this review that Victoria and NSW were able to force upon the feds ... if we cannot see a change in how the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is working for the people of NSW, forget pausing the plan, rip the bloody thing up and we will walk away,” he said.

Southern Riverina Irrigators deputy chair Darcy Hare said crossbench politicians who were not forced to toe a party line had understood the plan’s shortcomings and called for change.

“But until now, it appears the Liberal and National parties have been forced to follow the direction of Federal Water Minister David Littleproud, who refuses to accept the plan being implemented under his watch is a disaster,” Mr Hare said.

“We have had to sit back and watch this disaster unfolding before our eyes, with farmers walking off their land and communities suffering huge losses and population decline.

“Along the way local members who should be supporting us are instead letting us down.

“At last we have the deputy premier prepared to stand up and demand action.

“He can now see that the flexibility which was promised in the basin plan implementation is non-existent.”

Mr Barilaro is not the only politican calling for his state to walk away from the plan, with Victorian Legislative Council member Jeff Bourman wanting Ms Neville to do the same in Victoria.

“I write to you in regards to the recent announcement by the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro,” Mr Bourman wrote in a letter to Ms Neville.

“As you are well aware, I have been imploring the Victorian Government to withdraw from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan if it cannot be reworked in the interests of Victorian farmers.

“You have it within your power as Minister for Water to ensure Victorian farmers are better off under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“Currently, this is clearly unachievable. I call on you, in the interest of all Victorians, to withdraw Victoria from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and cease all water sharing plans, until a better outcome for Victorian farmers can be negotiated.

“NSW are already investigating withdrawing from the plan. It is time Victoria does the same.”