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Albo fails to keep his promise

The community-based Speak Up Campaign says it is disappointing that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has not honoured his promise to govern for all Australians.

It says the announcement that buybacks will be reintroduced to recover water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan shows the Albanese Government has plenty of appetite to appease its city-based environmental base, but is prepared to sacrifice rural communities to shore up this support.

Speak Up has also questioned the tactics of Water Minister Tanya Plibersek in her efforts to get support from Labor state governments, including the NSW Government which had previously pledged its opposition to buybacks because of the damage they cause to rural communities.

“It appears Minister Plibersek has used a ‘sign up or else’ approach, and the NSW Government has bowed to the pressure, doing a deal that agrees to buybacks in exchange for more federal funding. Congratulations to the Victorian Government and its Water Minister Harriet Shing for standing firm, even in the face of these tactics,” said Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar.

“Despite today’s announcement, our communities will continue to strongly oppose buybacks and we will also work with other organisations and continue to present better solutions. The great shame about the Albanese Government’s approach to the Basin Plan is that its focus is not on achieving environmental outcomes, but political ones. We do not believe this can be disputed with all the evidence that has been gathered over the past 11 years of implementation which could improve the Basin Plan, but gets ignored,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She said while Speak Up and other community organisations welcomed timeline extensions to the Basin Plan, there has been insufficient focus on delivering the best plan for all Australians, now and into the future.

“Less water for growing food not only severely impacts the economies of our rural communities. Less food means increased prices at the supermarket, further exacerbating the cost of living crisis. It’s hard to determine whether Ms Plibersek and her government do not know the consequences of their actions, or do not care.”

Mrs Scoullar said it was especially disappointing that Ms Plibersek has spoken constantly about listening to communities and seeking their input, when in reality all the efforts to engage with the process have fallen on deaf ears.

“This was her opportunity to get the Basin Plan right and make the necessary changes that would protect the environment, the economy and our rural communities. Instead, the Minister has chosen the easy option, which is more buybacks.

“What a slap in the face to our communities and the many people who actually believed Prime Minister Albanese’s words that he would ‘govern for everyone’. It seems our communities are exempt from his view of ‘everyone’.”

Mrs Scoullar said Speak Up would continue to advocate for more efficient use of water in South Australia, rather than feeding its insatiable appetite for precious Murray River water that is being used for recreation, housing developments, industry and domestic use. It will also continue asking Ms Plibersek and her department to explain how the additional water being recovered will be delivered to the end of the system.

“We cannot deliver the full amount of environmental water that is currently held in storage, so how are we going to deliver the additional volumes that we are told will be recovered, without causing flood damage to public and private property? What part of this basic physics impossibility does the Minister not understand?” Mrs Scoullar asked.

She said the Minister’s failure to listen and fully understand water policy and management means we could end up with a Basin Plan that puts our environment and rural communities in a worse position than before the Millennium drought, despite a multi-billion investment. But unfortunately that is what happens when politics is allowed to trump common sense.

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