Plibersek pushes on 450 Gl target

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New Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has raised the issue of recovering a further 450 Gl in the first week of the new parliament. Photo by Geoff Adams

Federal Labor has ramped up the pressure for the recovery of a further 450 gigalitres of water from the Murray-Darling Basin, with a statement from new Water Minister Tanya Plibersek in the first week of the new parliament.

Responding to a question from a South Australian MP, Ms Plibersek said she would be meeting with state ministers to press for the delivery of the full 450 Gl in the coming months, without referencing the conditions the delivery would require.

The VFF says finding the 450 Gl will cost jobs in rural communities like northern Victoria.

VFF Water Council chair Andrew Leahy said he had recently spoken to new Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing, and she had reaffirmed the Victorian Government’s position that it does not support buybacks as they do not pass the socio-economic test agreed to in 2018 by state and federal water ministers.

Mr Leahy said the Federal Government was desperate to recover the 450 Gl for South Australia, but was ignoring the impact on the remaining states.

South Australian Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie has been telling her electorate (which touches on the Lower Lakes region) that less than one per cent of fresh water has been returned to the Murray River in a decade under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

But according to the VFF, more than 2100 Gl of the target of 2075 Gl has already been recovered for the environment.

Similarly, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority says the recovery figure achieved up to the end of March is 2106 Gl.

The VFF has also raised concerns the Federal Government is rewriting history in an attempt to buy back and deliver water to South Australia.

Mr Leahy said the response from Ms Plibersek in parliament last week ignored the history behind the 450 Gl up-water target.

“The 450 Gl was a political deal struck between the Commonwealth and South Australia to get them to sign up to the basin plan. It was not a deal with Victoria and NSW,” he said.

“Minister Plibersek is also ignoring the comments her colleague Tony Burke made in 2012 when he said delivery of the 450 Gl would only be possible if there was no social and economic downside.”

Mr Leahy said the Commonwealth must respect the position of the Victorian Government, which has repeatedly stated it does not support water buybacks.

“The 450 Gl was never promised by Victoria. In fact, the Victorian Government in 2012 ran with a headline press release that a 3200 Gl basin plan is unacceptable.”