Senate vote sees basin plan falter

February 20, 2018

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is under threat after Federal Government changes seeking to distribute water differently were shot down in the Senate.

The Coalition was unable to strike a deal with Labor, which supported a Greens disallowance motion, with it passing 32 votes to 30 on Wednesday night.

NSW Water Minister Niall Blair announced his state would withdraw from the plan and Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the Senate move meant the plan would never be the same.

‘‘I am really angry on behalf of so many Victorians who have done the heavy lifting in regards to this plan, sold water, gone through uncertainty and then to have this thrown in their face by the Senate; it makes me angry,’’ Ms Neville said last week.

However, Ms Neville stopped short of saying Victoria was pulling out of the plan.

She said NSW’s withdrawal meant that the plan no longer existed in the form that everyone knew.

She said the Victorian Government would negotiate directly with the Federal Government on the delivery of the water savings projects making up about 600Gl of water, and that would deliver environmental outcomes.

She said some groups supporting the disallowance had said: ‘‘We will just go and buy the water now.’’

However, she said there was a cap and there were some delivery constraints that could prevent South Australia getting that water.

‘‘This was the biggest own goal by South Australia I have ever seen,’’ Ms Neville said.

Asked if she was disappointed with her Victorian ALP senators who voted for the Greens motion, Ms Neville said she wrote to every senator and warned them that this decision was a critical decision and if they were to disallow this they would be bringing the plan to an end.

‘‘If they did this, they were undermining the plan and everything that had been gained along the way,’’ she said.

She also said the Victorian Government would not ‘‘cave-in’’ on the delivery of 450Gl, with the qualification of delivery only without negative socio-economic effects.

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said Labor had brought back the ‘‘water wars’’ between the states.

‘‘Labor has killed the plan it worked on for years and had created huge uncertainty for thousands of businesses in regional towns which rely on water allocation,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘After putting farmers and rural communities through painful uncertainty for several years, Labor does it again.’’

- Geoff Adams

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