Last Wednesday (14/2/18) the Australian Senate voted 32-30 to disallow the Northern Basin Review (NBR) amendments which reduced the Northern recovery target by 70Gl, and which would have promised to save 180 jobs while delivering better environmental outcomes. In the wash-up from this highly political decision, significantly influenced by the South Australian election and the Batman by-election, both the NSW and Victorian Governments have threatened to walk away from the Basin Plan.
What a “walk-out” by the two States would mean is unclear - it certainly doesn’t mean that the Basin Plan disappears, in fact the Federal Government would remain obliged to deliver the full 2750Gl Basin Plan and possibly the 450Gl of ‘upwater’, but without the assistance of two key States.
The decision of the Senate to disallow the amendments was the first demonstration of loss of bipartisanship over the Plan. The next major test will be when a similar Disallowance Motion to overturn the Plan amendments concerning the 605Gl of ‘downwater’ Sustainable Diversion Limit Mechanism is considered on or before May 8. If this subsequent Disallowance Motion succeeds, there is no doubt that it will throw the implementation of the Basin Plan into total chaos.
Cotton Australia is of the view that all parties need to reconsider their position after the South Australian election has passed, and re-commit to delivering the plan in full.
With regards to the NBR amendments, it is legally possible for them to be reintroduced into Parliament after six months (earlier, under some circumstances). The Labor Party is on-record that it is open to reconsidering them, subject to the provision of additional information. It has been widely reported that, right up to the Senate vote, Minister Littleproud’s office was working closely with Labor’s water spokesperson Tony Burke, but unfortunately Labor still had some outstanding concerns that had not been resolved.
Cotton Australia thanks all the irrigators and community members who took the time to contact key parliamentarians to share their story as to why the Disallowance Motion should have been defeated.