FIRST the state government put its foot down on capping buyback – now the National Party is taking a stand.
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told The Area News on Friday he would join Riverina MP Michael McCormack in demanding restrictions on water buyback under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
His backing means Mr McCormack may not need to cross the floor when the plan is tabled in parliament next week.
Mr Joyce will pursue a “socio-economic neutrality” clause, stating the government cannot buy any water from a region if it will have any effect on the community.
“It’s vitally important that the amount of buyback be restricted and we have to find ways and means to do that,” Mr Joyce said.
“A cap on buyback would certainly have an impact on achieving that but we should also look at putting in a socio-economic neutrality condition.
“That will stop them from saying, ‘right, we need 1500 gigalitres, we’ll only take 300 of that from Griffith’ but that 300 gigalitres is the final straw for Griffith and it destroys the town.”
The government has already purchased 463 gigalitres of productive water from NSW, with 368 gigalitres coming from the southern basin.
Victoria has given up 410 gigalitres, while Queensland has lost only 33 gigalitres and South Australia 86 gigalitres.
Mr McCormack said southern NSW should be protected from relinquishing even more water in future.
“Wherever there is a provision for buyback, it needs to be capped in proportion to the amount of water that has already been taken from each valley or region,” Mr McCormack said.
“It would be nice from a Coalition perspective, considering we wrote the Water Act in the first place, if there was tacit approval for that cap.
Mr McCormack has organised for his staff to keep an eye on parliament at any time he is out of the chamber next week and alert him if federal water minister Tony Burke tables the document.
The plan only needs opposition from two members to go to a vote.
“I will do my absolute best to make sure, one way or another, this plan goes to a vote,” Mr McCormack said.
“If it’s not a good outcome for the Riverina and doesn’t safeguard the region from further disproportionate buyback, it certainly won’t get my support.
“The vote could be a 147-3 majority but I’m prepared to do that.”