Opposition to water buybacks

By Thomas Moir

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville has opposed her party’s federal counterparts’ proposal to lift the lid on more water buybacks for environmental use in parliament this week.

The impact of raising the cap on water buybacks on northern Victoria irrigators was raised in a debate between Ms Neville and Shadow water minister Steph Ryan.

‘‘Will you condemn federal Labor’s election policy to remove the 1500Gl cap on water buybacks that would see a federal Labor government re-enter the water market in Victoria and devastate irrigation communities?’’ Ms Ryan asked in parliament this week.

In reply, Ms Neville said she had been consistent in not supporting buybacks, including ‘‘last week in public comments to say I do not support the proposal by federal Labor around buybacks’’.

‘‘I have been absolutely clear on it. I was clear on this for the four years I was water minister,’’ she said, adding that her party had stood up for northern irrigators.

Ms Ryan asked whether Ms Neville would ‘‘write an open letter to your federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, clearly stating your absolute opposition to his position to remove the 1500Gl cap on water buybacks’’.

Ms Neville said she had been ‘‘in the papers’’, ‘‘on the TV’’, ‘‘on the radio’’ to irrigators and to the federal shadow water minister in making it ‘‘absolutely clear ... that we do not support further buybacks’’.

‘‘And whatever happens in the outcome, that will be our consistent position,’’ Ms Neville said. ‘‘I will do whatever I have to, to continue to oppose further buybacks, whoever is proposing them.

‘‘What I would say is that we should all be on one side on this and we should be standing up for northern irrigators.’’

Shepparton councillor Dennis Patterson joined Ms Ryan last week in slamming a proposal to ditch a cap on water buybacks for environmental use, saying it unnecessarily punished Victorian irrigators and communities.

Labor and the Greens last week urged the Federal Government to dump a cap on water buybacks for environmental use in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Cr Patterson criticised the federal Opposition’s call to repeal the 1500Gl cap on buybacks for environmental watering in response to a royal commission report, with the Greens supporting the move.

Ms Ryan last week said the plan to remove a cap under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan would have devastating consequences for irrigators and jobs in northern Victoria.