Ryan pressures Littleproud over basin plan policy

By Rodney Woods

Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan has urged Federal Water Minister David Littleproud to introduce the National Party's new approach to Murray-Darling Basin Plan policy into parliament as soon as possible.

At the National Party's Federal Council, held in Canberra on September 14, Ms Ryan presented a motion calling on the council to strongly oppose the recovery of the 450Gl of 'up-water' under the basin plan, which was passed.

Under the current basin plan, 450Gl of 'up-water' will be transferred to the environment, provided there are no negative socio-economic impacts.

Federal Water Minister and Nationals' Member for Maranoa David Littleproud spoke against the 450Gl motion.

"It is impossible to see how recovering the 450Gl of water can be achieved without causing further harm to our irrigation communities," Ms Ryan said.

The council also passed Ms Ryan's other motion, calling for 300Gl of environmental water to be traded onto the market to assist drought-affected farmers in Victoria and NSW.

"The argument that I was making is that our irrigators are at breaking point," she said.

"John Howard said in 2007 ... that environmental water would be made available in dry years and if the current conditions don’t qualify, I don’t know what will.

"That is what we are calling for."

When asked whether it was embarrassing that Federal Water Minister David Littleproud spoke against the 450Gl motion, Ms Ryan said it was time Mr Littleproud listened to irrigators.

"The important thing from my perspective was to take a strong case to Canberra to make sure irrigators' voices are heard," she said.

"We want urgent action and we are strongly urging the water minster to listen to those concerns."

The council also passed motions on a review into the sciences behind the Lower Lakes and its freshwater status as well as making sure water was used for production and not corporate profits.

Ms Ryan confirmed that it was now up to Mr Littleproud to put the motions to parliament.

"Effectively, they are party policy and it is up to the minister to consider how they can be carried forward," she said.

For more on the National Party council and Mr Littleproud's response, see next week's Country News.