Basin communities’ fate sealed during Senate debate
National Irrigators Council (NIC) is disheartened to see Minister Tanya Plibersek’s Restoring our
Rivers Bill passed in the Senate today without bipartisan support, as the Government sought
deals with individual cross benchers, driving a wedge into the heart of Basin communities.
Thirty-three Senators voted to pass the bill, twenty-six voted to stand up for Basin
NIC Chair, Jeremy Morton, said that the future of regional Basin communities is being
determined by Governments that have not undertaken any analysis on the likely impacts to
communities and have minimal understanding of the repercussions this new legislation will
have, not only for regional Basin towns, but Australia’s food production.
“There are still unanswered questions around the costs and impacts of this Water
Amendment Bill, particularly on Basin communities who have already done their fair share of
the Basin Plan heavy lifting.
“2,100GL of water has already been removed from these communities and they are still
paying the price for that. Many areas will never recover and will now be targeted again.”
“During the debate the Government finally recognised that there are socio-economic
impacts due to water purchases and the bill amendments, mean they have to now consider
this in purchase programs, they could not provide any clarity on the criteria and any
actions,” Mr Morton said.
The Bill will now progress back to House of Representatives, where the Government holds the
NIC Is calling on Minister Plibersek to detail how her agencies will implement the final stages
of the Basin Plan utilising the ‘other tools available’ to avoid further buy backs.
“It was disappointing to see the exclusion of complementary measures in the Bill. Without this
is a missed opportunity to achieve genuine environmental improvement throughout the
Basin,” Mr Morton said.
“This new Bill was required due to Government’s failing in their responsibilities to deliver what
was originally promised in the Basin Plan.
“We do not dispute the importance of a healthy and sustainable river system for everyone.
However, this Bill is focussed on ‘numbers on a page’ rather than on the final environmental
outcomes the 450GL of water will achieve.
“Now it has passed the Senate, we urge the Minister to focus on the end environmental goal,
to avoid further buybacks and the destruction of regional Basin communities.”