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Water boils as SA candidates square off over Murray Darling Basin Plan

There could be pain for South Australia’s River Murray farmers flowing from the 450 gigalitres promised to the state under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Mark Braes, the Labor Party candidate for Barker in the May 21 federal election, took aim at Liberal incumbent Tony Pasin's remarks last week at the FlowNews24 studios about the pain SA might have to wear to restore 450GL to the SA Murray. Mr Pasin estimated that SA irrigators' share might be around 32 gigalitres.

Hear Tony Pasin's full interview at the Flow studios on the podcast player below:

Speaking to FlowNews24, Braes said he feels the Liberal Party has drastically under-delivered on its pledge to secure the state’s 450 gigalitres of Murray water and that the failings of the government have become highly problematic for South Australia:

"For me, front of mind, for Barker, particularly in the Riverland and for the state really, is the Liberals haven't delivered on the 450 gigs that are owed to our state.
“As for the Murray Darling Basin, I think the problem for Barker and the state generally is...the Liberals haven't been able to deliver on the Murray Darling Basin Plan and we all understand what that's about, the Nationals in NSW ensuring we don't get that water.
"I think that's a really big issue."

Braes described Pasin's 32 gigalitre estimate was a diversion tactic for South Australian voters.

"Really, I think that's a distraction.
"The good people of the Riverland, with the pipes and the covered channels; the last people that should be shafted over water is South Australia, for God's sake."

Braes also took the opportunity to criticise the Nationals Party, suggesting that the party is not prioritising South Australia’s concerns when it comes to the promised 450 gigalitres.

"We've led the way in sustainable water use, so if it has to come from somewhere else."
“It just concerns me that the National Party seems to have come to the view that this is not an issue - well it's just not good enough."

Nationals candidate for Barker, SA state party president Jonathan Pietzsch, recently told Flow that at the party's national meetings he had opposed his interstate colleagues' position on SA's share of Murray water.

Braes’ broadside follows Pasin’s exclusive interview on FlowNews24 last week in which he estimated 32 gigalitres will have to come out of SA – specifically the Riverland – claiming it’s the equivalent of the Renmark Irrigation Trust surrendering all of its water.

"There are lots of South Australians that effectively think that if you're not committed, come hell or high-water, to the 450 [gigalitres], you're not acting like a proud South Australian.
“I want South Australians to understand that that 450 [gigalitres] includes 32 gigs, in my estimate, of South Australian water.
"The 450 [gigalitres] based on the triple-bottom line is not just a coalition position, that's embedded in the Murray-Darling basin agreement which is an agreement that requires the approval of all Murray-basin states including the Commonwealth.
"My position is that the 450 [gigalitres] needs to be achieved in accordance with the plan, but the plan says you can only achieve that 450 if you don't in achieving it occasion socio-economic harm to river communities."

Pasin defended the Coalition government’s approach to seeking positive outcomes for South Australia from the political deadlocks plaguing the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s objectives being fulfilled:

"Programs we've run to this point, have achieved the goal in the sense that, programs that provide capital exchange for water recovery allow us to produce just the same number of almonds or wine grapes or citrus with less water, returning water to the plan and effectively to the Commonwealth."
"What we don't want to see is the lazy approach to water recovery...basically buying that water back, denuding the Riverland of that productive water which drives our economy."

One Nation's South Australian leader Jennifer Game, whose daughter recently won a historic first One Nation seat in the state’s upper house, also weighed into the debate. Game opposed buying water back from SA farmers but implied South Australia needed to do more for its own water security using resources at its disposal:

"The problem is that all of this water that's bought back comes back from high-security water licenses that are used for creating our food and every time those licenses are bought, people stop farming in that area, stop employing people, towns start dying and it can get to a critical point where people are just in decline."
"We simply don't support that - we think that a lot of that water could be gained for South Australia by doing more work to turn around the drains in the South-East of SA, there's a bit of debate about how much more water can be gained that way."
"We think that there can be more water, I mean I've been down there recently and the amount of water gushing out of the barrages is unbelievable."
"We're not capturing any of that water in the good times at all in South Australia."

Ms Game indicated South Australia could be running its desalination plant more frequently for domestic water supply, but was prevented from doing so by the high cost of electricity.


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