Farrer MP Sussan Ley says communities in her electorate and southern Murray Darling Basin are under serious threat of economic and social ruin because of the Albanese Government’s focus on ‘water buybacks’ to reach environmental watering targets.

On Monday Labor closed another sham consultation process into their changes to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which essentially fast tracks 450gl of irrigation water back to the environment.

This puts at real risk the $3.6b annual agriculture output of the Riverina/Murray region, cutting the economic life from local agricultural services and products supplied to farmers, who then buy machinery, a new ute and employ more people.

Taking this extra water off farmers means they grow less. Less domestic food and fibre means you pay more at the checkout.

During a cost-of-living crisis, the government’s water buyback policy could not come at a worse time.

Taxpayer-funded buybacks also impact the government’s bottom line with Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek prepared to pay above market price simply to achieve an ideological objective alongside the Greens.

Equally concerning is the lack of transparency from the Minister who is not being open with what licences she is purchasing and for what price, this is artificially and negatively impacting on the water market.

But there is a solution. The Minister and her department must listen to the feedback they will have received during the consultation period, and many times before.

They need to return to the bipartisan policy we had prior to the Albanese Labor government which ensured water recovered could not cause a social or economic hurt to local communities.

That was the process we undertook during the Coalition Government, and it is the process I urge the current Minister to return to, ensuring this city, our region, and Australian agriculture has a future.