The Coalition’s proposed partial deferral of water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin could be a win-win that would actually help Basin reform, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
Leader Tony Abbott has today outlined $600 million of deferred water buybacks over the forward estimates, as part of more than $2 billion of savings measures demonstrating the capacity to rebuild communities hit by floods and Cyclone Yasi without Labor’s new tax.
“The Coalition remains committed to Murray-Darling Basin reform, necessary to avoid a repeat of the stresses placed on the system by over allocation of water resources, stresses that were evident even before we entered the recent prolonged drought,” Senator Birmingham said.
“However, it would be irresponsible not to react to changed circumstances which include the floods now recharging the Basin and the priority now to rebuild devastated communities.
“The Murray-Darling has gone from drought to flood. Water buybacks made in the next two years bring little benefit when compared to the masses of floodwaters now restoring life to our precious river environs.
“Floods have provided the breathing space to get long-term reform right. The first priority for that reform must be delivering a sustainable management plan.
“Water buybacks are important to implementing such a plan. However, now that the Murray-Darling is full we should buy water against a final plan, not make ad hoc purchases in desperation and in advance of knowing what such a plan will look like.
“Recent floods provide an opportunity to rebalance water recovery spending, with Labor having spent more than budgeted on buybacks every year and less than budgeted on water saving infrastructure every year.
“Partial buyback deferral will allow renewed focus on budgeted funding for neglected infrastructure projects that deliver water for the environment through efficiencies and without reducing food and fibre productive capacity.
“Advocates of water buybacks for environmental benefit should not despair at any suggestion of budgeted buybacks being briefly deferred. They should instead view it as an opportunity to deliver a sustainable plan that ensures buybacks are made in the right places, for the right volumes and at the right prices.
“In the meantime, partial deferral frees up money for the immediate task of rebuilding Queensland and other communities without the need for Labor’s flood tax.
“Deferral of water buybacks could be a win-win outcome.”