Webster warns on water risks of Labor-Greens-Independents 'alliance'
The Murray Darling Basin may be flush with water with Australia on the wet end of a La Niña climate cycle but a May 21 federal election has politicians along the nation's foodbowl jostling for control of the river system's future.
Representing the irrigation-dependent north western regional Victorian city of Mildura and its farmers, the Nationals' Mallee MP Anne Webster hit out at Friday's Adelaide re-announcement by Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese that they would deliver 450 gigalitres more to South Australia under the Basin Plan:
"That announcement by Labor is to sure-up a city seat, Boothby at least in Adelaide, when what we know, in terms of history and tracking with independents, is that they align over 80 per cent of the time with Labor and Greens."
"So if Labor is getting into power and they have a commitment to ensuring the 450 gigalitres is taken out of the river and taken out of supply consumption for irrigators, that is a huge problem."
Coalition MPs have been on the warpath against independents across the nation that threaten their hold on metropolitan and regional seats. Last election, former prime minister Tony Abbott lost his Sydney seat of Warringah to independent Zali Steggall, while regional Victorian seat of Indi successfully passed from retiring independent Cathy MacGowan to Helen Haines.
Dr Webster faces at least two independents in her own seat, river advocate Sophie Baldwin and Horsham councillor Claudia Haenel. Dr Webster highlighted the Coalition's efforts to protect family farms from water recovery targets that do social and or economic harm in the Basin:
"The Coalition and The Nationals have fought for a socio-economic neutrality test - when that test has been applied, it was agreed to in a bipartisan way through the basin states, when that is applied, you can't take that water out of the river, for more environmental purposes. It's just not possible because the community will suffer and it's every community along the Murray Darling region that is the problem here."
"Labor are unaware of that, nor do they care, they want to sure-up the seats in SA and in the city of Adelaide."
"It kind of highlights another issue that independents really just don't get the say ... because of how they vote, because of where they sit, they don't get to make the decision - they can vote one way or another ... the history shows over 85% of the time they vote with Labor and the Greens - and it's Labor who will determine the policy.
"It's Labor who will determine the policy, so effectively a vote for an independent is a vote for Labor - Green and that is the concern we have in regional seats."
Speaking with Flow on Tuesday, Mallee independent Sophie Baldwin said she was not part of any 'Labor - Greens - Independents alliance'.
Hear the full interview with Mallee independent Sophie Baldwin on the Flow podcast player:
South Australia's Labor water minister, Dr Susan Close, in announcing an anticipated 100 per cent SA water irrigation allocation for the 2022/23 water year, reminded South Australians during a federal election campaign of Labor's position:
"Our government is committed to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and will do everything in our power to deliver it, and to strengthen it for the future sustainability of South Australia.
"This includes fighting for the remaining 450 gigalitres of water agreed to by the commonwealth and Basin states."
Basin Storages are at 91 per cent of capacity, 32 per cent above the long-term average for the end of March.