Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Burke signs off on basin plan

Little else can be done to stop the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, whether the Coalition opposes it or not.

November 23, 2012 4:55am

Deniliquin farmers Colin (left) and Lachlan (right) Bull with Minister for Water Tony Burke and then Murray Irrigation Ltd chairman Stewart Ellis during Mr Burke's visit to Deniliquin in February.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has been signed into law, and there’s almost nothing that can be done about it.

Federal Water Minister Tony Burke was given the final plan on Wednesday night, and signed it in the presence of Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday.

The Coalition and the Murray Group of Concerned Communities (MGCC) have both admitted there is little that can be done.

The plan was never intended to go to a vote, and the only avenue to block it is to get a disallowance motion passed.

Any Member of Parliament has 15 sitting days to move a disallowance motion, but Federal Shadow Water Minister Barnaby Joyce said a disallowance could result in an even more detrimental outcome.

‘‘I won’t have the numbers to put it through,’’ he told the Pastoral Times on Wednesday.

‘‘The Greens would support the Labor Party.

‘‘That would then allow the Greens to go back to the negotiation table and negotiate a worse outcome.

‘‘They don’t need the Coalition.’’


Senator Joyce said the Greens want to see 4000GL returned to the environment.

Murray Group of Concerned Communities chair Bruce Simpson met with Federal Independent Bob Katter on Wednesday, and said he was exploring the possibility of a disallowance.


However, Mr Simpson said a disallowance could allow the government to keep buying back water.

‘‘Would the negative impact of not having any sort of plan be more profound than having some plan, even though it’s the best of the worst?’’ he said.

‘‘It (the plan) gives us a reference point by which we can hold politicians in any political party that find themselves in power accountable.

‘‘Without that framework our communities are even more vulnerable than they are now.’’

Mr Simpson said if a disallowance is passed, the plan cannot be tabled in Parliament again for six months.

‘‘But what it doesn’t stop, is the government of the day continuing to procure water in whatever way they think is most appropriate,’’ he said.

‘‘We will have no means to hold them accountable.

‘‘They have the right under the Water Act [2007].’’

Mr Simpson said yesterday the MGCC had not yet seen what was in the final plan, but had a ‘‘reasonably high expectation’’ of what would be in it.

However, he said if anything ‘‘left field’’ appeared in the plan that would be ‘‘clearly detrimental to our position’’, they would consider lobbying for a disallowance.


Senator Joyce also did not rule out moving a disallowance.

Mr Simpson said that beyond a disallowance, the only hope left for changing the plan lies after the next Federal election.

Both Mr Katter and Senator Joyce have indicated they could go back and change the plan, if they had the power after the 2013 polls.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan will deliver 2750GL of water to the environment.

Legislation to recover a further 450GL, bringing the total to 3200GL, is expected to be put to Parliament next week as a separate bill.

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has said she ‘‘can’t live with 3200GL’’.

‘‘No one in the Coalition is saying they can accept it either,’’ she said.

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