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Labor needs to confirm policy on water buybacks

Regional communities need to know the Labor Party’s position on water buybacks before the upcoming federal election, according to the Speak Up Campaign.

It is calling for the party’s Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler to make their position clear.

This follows media reports that Ms Butler has been asked to outline whether or not the party would reintroduce buybacks or compulsory acquisition of farmers’ water, but has not been prepared to answer this vexed question.

Speak Up Campaign spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said rural voters need to be clear about this contentious issue before they go to the polls.

“The Coalition has made it clear there will be no more water buybacks. Our regional communities cannot afford more buybacks; they have suffered enough through the removal of water from productive use and it is well known that more buybacks will cause further devastation to farmers and the communities which rely on them.

“It will also put at further risk Australia’s ability to grow food for our own people, as well as others throughout the world. We keep hearing rhetoric about delivering a $100 billion agriculture industry, which sounds good when you say it quickly. But this cannot and will not be achieved if we keep taking water away from our nation’s food bowl in the southern Murray-Darling Basin,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She said Australia’s irrigation farmers are the most efficient in the world and should be supported in their endeavours, not consistently handicapped.

“You cannot grow food and fibre without water. And rural communities cannot survive without the prosperity generated by their farmers.

“If the Labor Party wants to shut down important food growing areas in southern Australia, we think it should at least come straight out and say so. We understand that they do not have much to gain in our region from a political perspective, as they do not hold seats across southern New South Wales and northern Victoria.

“However, it would seem only reasonable that they were clear about their intentions so organisations like Speak Up can use our voice to warn our city friends about the dangers of any water buyback policy.

“Labor, like everyone else, also needs to understand the environmental damage being caused by the Basin Plan, which is a consequence of its focus on delivering quantity, not quality. We need to reset the priorities so the Murray River is being protected, as per the original intentions of the plan, rather than being used as a drainage channel that sends vast quantities from upstream dams to South Australia.

“As the pandemic has shown us, when we reduce the supply of any product it leads to problems with demand. Reduce water and you will reduce the supply of food essentials, thus making them more expensive and harder to obtain in city supermarkets. It’s as straight forward as that.

“If this is going to be a consequence of Labor policy, we believe those who live in and outside our cities need to know that,” Mrs Scoullar said.

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