Federal Budget Keeps Basin Communities In Dark


The Australian Government must reveal how much it has stashed away in its secret slush fund to buy back more water from farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin.

NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller said the Government’s commitment to transparency is wafer thin when it continues to keep this secret in the third Budget in a row.

“The Government cannot hide behind commercial in confidence or distorting the market as that ship has well and truly sailed,” Ms Miller said.

“The market became distorted the moment Minister Plibersek announced her intention to buy back water in the Government’s first Budget in 2022.

“The Government has already paid 20 per cent and more above the market to buy back a relatively small amount under its Bridging the Gap tender – and that’s before it starts trying to pull another 450 GL out of the shrinking bucket to grow food and fibre.

“To add insult to injury for Basin communities, the Government has also kept secret its budget for Basin community adjustment, deeming it ‘nfp’, not for publication.

“What on earth could they have to hide there? Unless they know it will be pitifully inadequate to properly support communities whose towns will be hollowed out of jobs, people and services.”

The Budget also fails to provide funding to address the major degradation drivers still making rivers sick despite more than 2975 billion litres of water already recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan and earlier reforms.

“Just adding more and more water at this point will not fix what is still making the rivers sick. For that, the Government must put serious money int0 measures such as reducing the European Carp infesting our waterways, ruining habitat and water quality,” Ms Miller said

“All of the research shows that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan cannot deliver its objectives by simply adding more water. Governments need to invest serious resources into protecting native fish species, combating cold water pollution, riverbank erosion and other degradation drivers.”

NSW Irrigators Council welcomes the allocation of funds for water infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing drinking water quality and security in regional Australia.

“This investment is long overdue.”

/Public Release. View in full here.