Every Australian who wants to eat clean, green and fresh locally produced food should be appalled at findings from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan evaluation report, released this week.
While the report tries to sugar-coat positive aspects of the Basin Plan, the Speak Up Campaign says it is becoming increasingly clear that the plan cannot be implemented ‘in full and on time’ by 2024.
Despite this, it says all sides of politics are intent on playing the blame game instead of getting on with the job of leading our country into a secure future, one in which food production and ecological outcomes go hand in hand.
In releasing the evaluation report, MDBA CEO Phillip Glyde said he would “have more confidence” in infrastructure projects if deadlines could be extended, but “if we are going to allow for more time then … legislation has to change.” He continued: “The Commonwealth Government has recently made it clear that it is not going back into Parliament to change the timeframe at this stage.”
Mr Marshall called on local federal representatives to demand Mr Pitt and their Government work with all sides of politics to extend legislative timeframes so we can have projects which will provide greater ecological benefits and protect staple food security.
“Our understanding is there is also no appetite for legislative changes to the bipartisan plan from the Opposition. Under the Basin Plan, if the projects are not achieved by 2024 the government could be forced by legislation to acquire more water through buy-backs, yet Mr Pitt has guaranteed there will be not more buy-backs.
“If our Federal Government is serious about delivering an effective Basin Plan and protecting our communities, it must put the next election cycle aside and work with all sides of politics so legislation can be passed which will extend timeframes and rule out more buy-backs.
“Our concern is the current government is too frightened that there is a risk of political damage to their precious marginal city seats. For a long time it has appeared as if our communities are being sacrificed to keep city ideologists at bay, and if Mr Pitt and his government do not take firm action early in 2021 it will be hard to come to any other conclusion,” Mr Marshall said.
He said the report also raises concerns about the poor communication and engagement with irrigation communities, which Speak Up had been highlighting for years.
“It was also disappointing to hear Mr Glyde in a television interview this week on climate change impacts, call for farmers to work with the MDBA. Five years ago the MDBA came to Deniliquin and promised a new level of regular engagement. As soon as we criticised aspects of the Basin Plan they high-tailed out of here. Farmers are the best asset this country has to address climate change issues; they are the most efficient water managers around, yet their experience and knowledge is not recognised or respected. We have always been ready and willing to be involved in dialogue to improve the Basin Plan, we hope this can be achieved,” Mr Marshall said.
He believes the Federal Government needs to look seriously at the way the Basin Plan is being delivered and acknowledge there were numerous flaws in its planning, from deliverability to climate change impacts, the unexpected damage being caused to the environment through excessive flows, as well as adverse social and economic impacts on rural communities as outlined in the Sefton and numerous other reports.
“It’s hard to believe any the government would continue hurting rural Australia and its environment with a crazy ‘on time and in full’ mantra after the numerous reports with adverse findings that we have seen this year.
“But only time will tell. As we have found, politics is a nasty game where votes often come before people and best results. That has been the case thus far with the Basin Plan and our only hope is that this approach will change,” Mr Marshall said.