Labor’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Australia, Lisa Chesters MP has said the recent media comments made by the Federal Member for Murray, Damien Drum are disappointing and demonstrating that Mr Drum is only interested in playing party politics.

“Instead of playing party politics, local MPs should be calling all State and Federal Parliamentarians to first publicly recommit Murray-Darling Basin and b) commit to find a bipartisan solution.

“This week I have had met and spoken directly with multiple stakeholders who have all told me the same thing, that all sides of the isle need to come to the table with their respective concerns and find a solution.

“Further, there will be no solution or future for the Murray Darling Basin plan without the States and that’s part of what makes this area of public policy so complicated.

“Mr Drum’s attack on the South Australian State Government is not helpful. History tells us that when it comes to water policy, wedge politics will resolve the situation.

“The decision to support the disallowance of the instrument relating to the Northern Basin was a difficult and tough decision.

“The Northern Basin still has inadequate metering and NSW still needs to address issues in their water plans which continue to leave open the possibility of environmental water, paid for by the Australian taxpayer, being pumped directly back into irrigation dams. Australians need confidence that environmental water paid for by them isn’t diverted to irrigation dams,” said Ms Chesters.

Federal Labor acknowledges the commitments made to date, particularly the public statements by the New South Wales Government as well as actions taken to begin to address these issues, but while these serious gaps remain Labor could not support the instrument that was presented.

However, Federal Labor wants to work constructively with all levels of Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to deliver a genuine future outcome.

The new Federal Minister for Water needs to update the work that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has already carried out in good faith and to provide better information and analysis in the following areas to restore public confidence in the Northern Basin review and instrument:

• The need for taxpayer funded environmental water to be used for environmental purposes
• A comprehensive response to allegations of corruption / water theft in the Northern Basin
• Indigenous consultation and engagement in water planning / governance
• The accuracy of data and modelling assumptions.

“If these issues with the Northern Basin are not resolved, communities in the Southern Basin cannot have confidence in the Plan.

“These issues have all been raised with me when I have met with the many farmers and stakeholders in the Southern Basin.

“Further, for the Plan to be effective, it must be delivered in full.

“The Basin Plan is aimed at ensuring all users of the Basin, including the environment can share in the water resources as far as possible in a fair and sustainable way.

“Federal Labor is confident that there is a pathway to get the Plan back on track. However, this can only happen if elected representatives choose to look for solutions rather than conflict,” said Ms Chesters.