Labor seeks green flows
The Federal Labor Opposition wants to amend the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to deliver an extra 450 gigalitres of water for the environment.
Labor says that extra ‘up water’ supplies — 450GL of environmental water above the basin plan's baseline water recovery target of 2,750GL — can be delivered to the environment without harming basin communities.
“While the plan says you must have positive or neutral socio-economic outcomes, it then says what will be taken as evidence of that,” Mr Burke said.
“It says [the evidence would be] the participation of consumptive water users in projects that recover water through works to improve irrigation water use efficiency on their farms.
“So if it's an irrigation efficiency project that farmers have voluntarily entered into, it is taken as given in the plan that there are neutral or positive socio-economic outcomes.
“That's what the plan says.”
Burke accused Joyce of quoting "selectively" from the basin plan in order to “pretend that the compromise is just undeliverable”.
He accused the Agriculture Minister of contradictorily working to reduce the 2,750GL baseline recovery target by up to 650GL if the same environmental outcomes can be achieved with less water.
“Unless he can step back from his argument that the 450GL is undeliverable by refusing to quote the entirety of the plan, Labor will have no choice but to move an amendment to the Water Act ... which says you cannot get the full 650GL unless the 450GL is delivered as well. We are having that amendment drafted now.”
Joyce said Burke was “threaten[ing] to move the goalposts”.
“Speaking to the people who actually live in basin communities, it is clear that decisions over additional water recovery and how it is done are life and death for some of these communities,” he said in a statement.
“I am committed to delivering the triple-bottom-line outcomes of the basin plan.
“We must ensure that we secure the health of the basin, for the communities and vital industries that contribute so much to our nation.”
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority will soon release recommendations for basin plan changes, which many expect will involve a reduced water recovery target for northern rivers.
Earlier reports found employment and local economies in some northern towns were significantly harmed by environmental water recovery over the last ten years.