The National Irrigators’ Council says Labor’s Basin Plan policy, announced on Monday, could end up punishing communities and industry for failure to achieve projects that are completely beyond their control.

CEO, Steve Whan, says “Labor needs to be very clear about whether it wants the best possible environmental outcomes, or if it thinks deadlines are the only thing that matters when it looks at implementation of key elements of the Basin Plan.

“Labor is quite right to recognise the importance of the 605GL worth of supply projects and the environmental outcomes that will come from them. 

“However, it is an insult to the industry and irrigation communities to have, as the only policy comment on those projects, the use of the ‘big stick’ of water buybacks – if the projects are not complete in 2024 or fail to deliver anticipated benefits.

“Let’s be very clear it is the responsibility of Basin governments to deliver these projects. 

“Labor’s first point on this should be to indicate that they will do their best to deliver in full on these projects.  Afterall, Labor put that component in the Basin Plan.

“My message to Tony Burke is to put the big stick down, and commit, if elected, to getting on with Government’s responsibility, which is to get the funding out there, properly engage communities in planning and get on with the projects.

“The Productivity Commission recognised the need to do this in its comprehensive 5 year review of the Basin Plan – it should be a basis for the way forward.

“There are some aspects of Labor policy that irrigators, and anyone else genuinely interested in river health, would agree with.  They include things that we have pushed for years, including better connectivity and improving habitat for native fish. 

“This election campaign has seen a continuation of ignorant or dishonest attacks from some minor parties, and some media, on farmers who use irrigation to grow more than 84% of our vegies, fruit and nuts, along with rice, cotton, sugarcane and most dairy products.  The farmers who in the Murray Darling grow product generating more than $7 billion a year for Australia. 

“Serious parties, including alternative Governments, need to recognise that we will get much worse environmental outcomes if we destroy cooperation between Governments and communities.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Monday 6 May 2019