Politics in the way of developing best plan
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says any changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan must be done at an executive level rather than through legislation.
The Agriculture and Water Resources Minister said it may be the only way to effect change in the Basin Plan, which he acknowledges is flawed.
Meeting with irrigation industry representatives last Wednesday evening in Deniliquin, Mr Joyce said politics will unfortunately always get in the way of developing a plan that adequately suits all parties.
‘‘With the Water Act, to get anything changed — and I’m not making excuses, this is reality — it needs to get through the Greens and Labor, and that is difficult,’’ Mr Joyce said.
‘‘I get the motivation that we have to get this right, but we do work in a political system and we do not run both houses.
‘‘All that has been discussed here (in Deniliquin) are meetings I have already had on your behalf without even meeting you. We have an Act and we have to try and deal with it.’’
Mr Joyce didn’t disagree with local food producer Ken Crossley who said the Basin Plan was a ‘‘political plan and not an environmental plan’’ at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Mr Crossley added that state borders need to be ignored, and all issues discussed as one.
‘‘We have to deal with South Australia,’’ Mr Joyce said.
‘‘We’ve got to try and get a better plan and we need South Australia to come on board with that.’’
Backing up Mr Joyce’s argument, Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley maintained she believed the Basin Plan process must move forward and not backwards.
‘‘The challenges (with the Basin Plan) are not insurmountable, but we can’t get rid of the plan — I certainly don’t want to,’’ she said.
‘‘I believe we need to land the plan in a place where the public and the farmers have confidence in it. We don’t have that yet.’’
One of the last to speak at Wednesday night’s meeting, Neil Eagle said he was confident ‘‘eventually common sense will prevail’’ in regards to the Basin Plan.
He also said he wanted to hear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was Water Minister when the Water Act 2007 was introduced, admit its faults.
‘‘The Water Act has some fundamental problems,’’ Mr Eagle said.
‘‘Mr Turnbull would show he is a great leader if he would acknowledge there is a problem. It would warm my heart to hear that from him.’’