Water

Farmers are facing fines and jail time after a Shooters-Labor vote in the Upper House stripped legal protections.

A disallowance motion backed by the Shooters, Labor and Greens was a political stunt aimed at embarrassing the government, but it put farmers in the firing line.

One farmer told The Daily Telegraph: “I’m frustrated with the political point scoring; it feels like we’re collateral damage in the Shooters and others trying to have a go at the (Nationals).” He also said the Shooters were “kicking us when we’re down on our knees” after the recent drought.

Prior to the disallowance motion brought on by the Shooters, Labor and the Greens, the Water Management (General) Amendment (Exemptions for Floodplain Harvesting) Regulation 2020 provided certainty for water users in the five designated floodplains in the Northern Basin and 10 designated floodplains in the Southern Basin. It allowed farmers to pump floodwater on their property for a variety of reasons, including protecting crops from inundation. The rules were put in place until a new metering and license system comes into effect next year.

But the Shooters had been looking to escalate their attacks on the Nationals and used the support of Labor and the Greens to take their shot.

Current predictions show there is a high chance of rain in coming weeks and the government is still more than nine months away from finalising licenses for floodplain harvesting. If this decision is not reversed, farmers will face potential penalties of two years jail time for an individual, or a $5 million dollar fine for a corporate, if they pump that floodwater away from crops.

Ironically, a Shooters MP may be one of the farmers in the firing line because of the partnership with Labor and the Greens. Member for Murray Helen Dalton told The Weekly Times this week that a dam on her property might harvest floodwater if a local waterway spilled its banks.

“I can’t put my hand to my heart and say it (the dam) wouldn’t harvest Mirrool Creek water, when we’ve got a metre of water across the place.”

Helen Dalton MP

Unfortunately, this is another example of the chaos minor parties can cause when they place political point-scoring ahead of the needs of farmers and regional communities. Now it remains to be seen if the Shooters will stick to their guns on floodplain harvesting or if they’ll surrender to protect one of their own MPs.