Federal Nationals Member for Riverina Michael McCormack says river communities have been “shafted” by the Labor Government over its decision to sidle up to the Greens to strip water for irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Mr McCormack said this was yet another blow to Riverina and Central West residents already hurting from the high cost-of-living pressure under this government. He said grocery prices will go up as costs to grow produce rise and yields fall.
“Today’s Labor-Greens’ love-in to push through amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has once again proved river communities are being treated as second-class citizens,” Mr McCormack said.
“Labor tries to deny it is in a relationship with the Greens but, as I have always said, it’s not what Labor says but what it does. By jumping into a waterbed with the Greens, Labor has again abandoned regional communities.
“Irrigators are being shafted by this government, which hasn’t even bothered to visit or consult with the communities they plan to decimate. Going to the Greens for support on policy affecting irrigation farming communities is just preposterous.
Mr McCormack said water buybacks are lazy policy – taking water away from the communities which help to grow our food and fibre.
“Even NSW Water Minister Rose Jackson does not support buybacks. Why can’t why can’t her Federal Government counterpart see the damage this poor policy will cause?
“The cost of living is already out of control under this government, which clearly has been asleep at the wheel in this regard, and reducing the ability for irrigators to grow produce will only exacerbate the issue.
“Labor knows this will have a detrimental effect on river communities, which is why it has taken away the neutrality test measures which were put in place in December 2018 by then-Water Minister David Littleproud, which was designed to ensure that the 450GL of water could not be taken if there were harmful effects to social and economic outcomes.
“The neutrality test was designed to protect both jobs and production and was to be applied at a local, regional and state level.
“On top of this, Labor Governments, both Federal and State, refuse to invest in water infrastructure to conserve more water. Instead, they are happy to watch this precious resource be flushed out of the mouth of the Murray with a complete disregard for the societal and economic consequences of those who live, work and raise families in river communities.”
“Water is a difficult policy area, but you cannot enact policies which remove productive water from food-growing areas and reduce the economic production of those vibrant places.
“Taking water out of these communities leaves stranded assets, fewer farmers and hurts everyone in the community.
“People who sell their water leave the area and it’s felt across the region through less business for the cafés, hairdressers, mechanics and others. It also means fewer children attending local schools because families leave the area.
“The ripple effect is massive, and some centres do not recover.”