Farmers and irrigators have joined the Australia Institute in a national campaign to support voluntary buybacks, with the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 passing the Senate today, clearing the way for important Murray-Darling basin reforms to become law.
Australia Institute research shows that 63% of regional Australians support the policy to reinstate voluntary water buybacks, with just 11% opposed. The campaign begins today and will see full-page adverts running in leading rural newspapers showcasing farmers’ support for the policy to reintroduce voluntary buybacks.
The Bill includes critical measures to safeguard the health of the Murray-Darling, including expanded water recovery options, the extension of timelines and increased transparency.
Key features of the Bill:
- Extending Basin Plan deadlines
- Assurances the Government will recover the 450GL by December 2027
- $100m for the Aboriginal Water Entitlement Program
- Flexibility to allow additional water recovery in the Northern Basin
- Inspector General of Water Compliance to undertake an audit of water held by the Commonwealth
- Granting the Water Minister power to cancel SDLAM projects that are not viable, for example, the Menindee Lakes Project
- $50.5m to improve the health of the Upper Murrumbidgee
“The Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 is the most important piece of water legislation since the Basin Plan was passed in 2012,” said Kate McBride, Rural Researcher at the Australia Institute
“This legislation is not about recovering additional water; it is simply about delivering the targets set in Basin Plan that received bi-partisan support over a decade ago.
“It has been great to see the Federal Government working co-operatively with the crossbench to strengthen this legislation. This Bill’s passing marks a historic day, and everyone who wants to see thriving communities and a healthy environment should be relieved.
“While this Bill is a massive step in the right direction, more work is required to ensure delivery and improvements. The Basin Plan Review will occur in 2026. This will be a further opportunity to address areas where more work is required, such as First Nations ownership, water recovery from the northern basin and climate change.
“Voluntary water buybacks give farmers flexibility and freedom. No lobby group or political party should dictate who they sell their water to.
“Regional decline is a major issue in rural Australia, but lobby groups pointing the finger at buybacks distract people from the real issue. Communities that have both experienced buybacks and those that have not are both confronting regional decline. Investment in these communities to deal with the impacts of a drier future due to climate change is necessary. Still, the Government and crossbench have seen through their disinformation and fear campaign tactics.”