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SA anger as Victoria declares death of Murray-Darling plan

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Victoria has declared a plan to sustain the Murray-Darling Basin river system “dead” after federal changes to secure more water for farmers in ‘upwater’ states were voted down in the Senate.

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Victorian water minister Lisa Neville said her Labor government was “not willing to get rid of” its dairy and horticultural industries by agreeing to the original 2012 sustainability plan.

“We said if these motions get disallowed the plan is over. It’s not walking away, the plan is over,” she told ABC radio today.

“I’m really angry.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in irrigation communities, they’re doing it tough, they’re critical to our economy, these towns are critical to Victoria.”

The minister’s statement comes after NSW said it would also walk away from the plan.

The stances by NSW and Victoria have angered South Australia, a ‘downwater’ state, which has accused them of never being really committed to the full Murray-Darling Basin plan.

SA Water Minister Ian Hunter also accused the Federal Government of lacking leadership on the issue and of being completely beholden to the Nationals, which hold the federal water portfolio.

“Victoria and NSW are trying to … get a better deal for themselves and cut the South Australian component right out and we just won’t stand for it,” Hunter told ABC Radio today.

Federal changes to water distribution were shot down by a disallowance motion in the Senate on Wednesday night.

The Coalition was trying to reduce the amount of water being returned to the environment in the ‘upwater’ states to support farmers and industries in those regions.

NSW Water Minister Niall Blair said the plan was now “untenable” for the state’s farming communities along the river system.

Last year, NSW was embroiled in a water theft scandal when irrigators and farmers took more than their allocated water share.

Hunter said he believed the federal Nationals, whose water minister is Queenslander David Littleproud, never intended to deliver the complete basin plan.

“The reason Victoria and NSW have been behaving badly for the last 24 months is because there’s been no federal leadership at all since Malcolm Turnbull handed the portfolio to the National Party,” Hunter said.

“They’re totally tied up by Barnaby Joyce and they give him whatever he wants because he keeps Malcolm Turnbull in the top job.”

Littleproud insisted the only way he could deliver the plan in full was to have all the states “on this journey with me”.

“If they start pulling out I have no real mechanisms to deliver this plan. I have no real vehicle to continue this legislation,” he told ABC radio.

“Sadly, at some point, we are going to have to take a leap of trust with each other.”

The Murray-Darling system takes in 23 rivers, supports more than four million people and stretches across South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

The Murray Darling Basin Plan determines the amount of water that can be taken from the basin for urban, industrial and agricultural use.

– AAP

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