Deniliquin Pastoral Times

‘Lack of understand­ing’ a concern for MRSG

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A leading advocacy group has expressed concern that the Labor Party seems to lack an understand­ing of critical water management issues.

Comments by Labor leader Anthony Albanese and the party’s Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler in Adelaide last week have raised alarm bells in communitie­s across the Murray region of NSW.

Murray Regional Strategy Group chair Geoff Moar said he was disappoint­ed with announceme­nts from Mr Albanese, and questioned whether the Opposition leader has sufficient­ly researched water policy and the implementa­tion of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. MRSG represents a broad range of community and farming organisati­ons across the NSW Murray.

“The plan is not perfect, but communitie­s are working hard to deliver its objectives in the best possible way without causing additional social and economic damage,” Mr Moar said.

“If we return to the days of water buybacks, as suggested by Mr Albanese and Ms Butler, it will be a massive backward step. It would appear the Labor Party does not understand the cost to consumers if they proceed with buybacks.”

Mr Moar expressed concern at what appeared to be “cheap political point scoring” by Labor with its Basin Plan announceme­nts made in South Australia, which is the state which has gained a lot but given little under the plan.

“It is disappoint­ing that this announceme­nt appears to tell us that votes in South Australia are more important than cost of living pressures for all Australian­s, or the survival of some regional communitie­s.

“All Basin Plan states have agreed to strict social and economic criteria before further water is recovered, to ensure these communitie­s are protected. To threaten to rip up this agreement when he does not even understand the complexiti­es around delivering more water is not the behaviour we expect to see from a potential prime minister,” Mr Moar said.

“Mr Albanese has never even visited our region to see for himself the constraint­s which make it impossible to deliver additional volumes if buybacks were re-introduced and the agreed socio-economic neutrality test was removed,” he added.

Mr Moar said there also appeared to be a lack of understand­ing around the ramificati­ons of the buyback policy for all Australian­s.

“This is not just about removing more water from the productive bucket and therefore increasing cost of living pressures and reducing food security. There is also the increased risk of third party flooding impacts by trying to force extra volumes down the Murray River.

“This would push water over banks, potentiall­y resulting in loss of crops, stock and stock feed, damage to public and private infrastruc­ture and loss of productive land. This all results in less food production, increased prices for consumers, job losses and further population declines in rural communitie­s.

“It almost seems like Labor has had a ‘thought bubble’ that it hopes will be a vote winner in South Australia, but has given no considerat­ion to the broader consequenc­es.

“Even its facts are inaccurate. The comment that only two gigalitres has been returned to SA, which Mr Albanese described as ‘barely a trickle’ is totally false. In fact, more than 2,000 gigalitres have been recovered under the Basin

Plan and even in a drought year there have been nearly 1,000 gigalitres in environmen­tal water delivered to SA.

“So we have to ask: Does Mr Albanese care about the environmen­t and does he understand what the Basin Plan has achieved? Or is he only interested in false rhetoric and political spin to win votes?

“I am extremely disappoint­ed that these questions even have to be asked on such an important issue to all Australian­s, and at the start of an election campaign.”

Mr Moar added an MRSG representa­tive would be meeting the NSW Shadow Water Minister Rose Jackson this week to raise its concerns and seek clarity around the party’s position at state level.

“Murray Regional Strategy Group is a non-political organisati­on that will not be involved in promoting any individual or party during this or any other election.

“But if the need arises, we will fight for common-sense and for our communitie­s.

“We are somewhat stunned by Mr Albanese’s statements that show such a gross misunderst­anding of facts and realities.”

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