National Party MPs want 450Gl scrapped and the MDBA split

By Rodney Woods

Victorian National Party MPs at both state and federal level continue to call for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to be split and for the controversial 450 Gl to be scrapped entirely.

Joining Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum on the bank of the Goulburn River at Kialla on June 23, was Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster, Senate Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie and Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan, who all voiced concerns about the need for the authority to be split into three separate entities amid ongoing concern the organisation continues to "mark its own homework".

"This is an authority that is refusing to act in agriculture's interests and seems to be solely based on finishing the plan and at any cost to agriculture," Mr Drum said.

"We are looking for a much better balance there and as we see it at the moment, the only way to achieve that balance is to break up the Murray-Darling Basin Authority."

Ms Ryan explained how the Nationals wanted the authority split up.

"We need to break it down into compliance ..., implementation and, separately to that, river operations and that broadly fits with what the Productivity Commission recommended," she said.

"They (Productivity Commission) said if the authority is not split, then there are billions of dollars worth of projects throughout the basin that are at risk of failure."

In addition to splitting up the authority, the four politicians said the extra 450 Gl for the environment could not be delivered without significant impacts on farmers, basin communities and the environment.

Mr Drum said the socio-economic neutrality test made it clear that the 450 Gl could not be taken from farming communities.

"The 450 (gigalitres) simply can not be delivered," he said.

"The socio-economic neutrality test has been in place now for 18 months.

"Quite simply, when you apply the neutrality test to any further water recovery, it cannot be delivered, it cannot be recovered.

"Therefore, it's time to face facts, realise the 450 (gigalitres) cannot be recovered and simply move on with our lives.

"Let's take this noose from around our farmers' necks and let's just move on."

With the MPs adamant that no further water could be removed from the agricultural sector, they were asked about their reactions to the basin report card, which revealed more water could be removed if sustainable diversion limit projects were not complete on time.

"The idea that we will be going back into the market with buybacks from 'willing sellers' is  an absolute anathema to us in the National Party," Senator McKenzie said.

"We were the ones that actually fought to put caps on, to restrict that previously and we won't take a backward step in making sure that buybacks are not going to be part of  delivering the 450 (gigalitres)."