Labor needs to take water buybacks off the table

Thursday, March 2nd 2023 

Federal Member for Nicholls, Sam Birrell MP, says most of the Murray-Darling Basin plan can be completed without further damaging irrigation communities or pushing up prices for basic foods but
only if the Albanese Government backs down on water buybacks.


The Victorian and New South Wales Governments have asked for more time to complete water recovery through Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects but federal
Water Minister Tanya Plibersek place on record at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Councilmeeting on February 24 that “…delivering the Basin Plan will include the purchase of water so that all
targets can be delivered”.

“Two more years is all that is needed to avoid the negative social and economic buybacks and deliver the plan in full through investment in water saving projects,” Mr Birrell said.

“Despite projects delays being caused by the pandemic and floods, irrigation communities are being denied the time to meet water recovery targets in the least harmful way.

“The Albanese Government seems hellbent on meeting a deadline for completion on the Basin Plan that is no longer achievable without the Government purchasing billions of litres of water through buyback, a move that will reduce water available for irrigation, decrease productivity, increase costs for irrigators that remain, and ultimately add significantly to cost of living pressured for Australian
families,” he said.

The Murray-Darling Basin is responsible for producing around 40 per cent of our food and fibre and generates $22 billion at the farmgate with the multiplier in our communities and economy increasing that figure to around $80 billion.

1 in 3 litres of irrigation water is already diverted to the environment under the Basin Plan but with an additional 450Gl and making up existing shortfalls, the Albanese Government could be looking to purchase over 760 Gl in the coming years just to meet the June 2024 deadline.

“That is more than half the average amount of irrigation water used in the entire Goulburn Murray Irrigation District over the past four years,” Mr Birrell said.

“It represents 25 per cent of the total irrigation water in the southern basin which stretches from the NSW Riverina through Victoria and into the Riverland of South Australia.”

Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing remains steadfast in her support for SDLAM projects as a means of completing the plan and Mr Birrell says federal Labor needs to start listening and take buybacks off the table.

“25 per cent less water for food and fibre production will put jobs, businesses and towns at risk,” Mr Birrell said.

“The loss of production combined with increased costs for farmers will increase the cost to consumers, cost of living is already the biggest challenge for Australian families, and this will make it infinitely worse.”

“It’s not too late to reconsider and work with basin states to complete the projects they have already committed to and deliver water for the environment without resorting to harmful and inflationary buybacks.

Media Contact:

Media Advisor Federal Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell
Morgan Dyer
0412 832 474