Less than three weeks after overruling the Murray Darling Basin Authority the Greens turned down an opportunity to question the Commonwealth agency at Senate Estimates.
Farmers and the Coalition are incensed at the Greens position on the Basin Plan and they have not miss the opportunity to jump into them over their Estimates absence.
On February 14 the Greens brought a controversial disallowance motion to overturn the MDBA’s Northern Basin Amendment. It was passed with support from Labor and Nick Xenophon Team.
The disallowance motion prompted the NSW Coalition and Victorian Labor governments to withdraw support for the Basin Plan, arguing bipartisan cooperation had been destroyed when Federal Parliament overruled the independent umpire.
The disallowance motion came in response to the MDBA recommendation that the Basin Plan’s 2012 recovery target be downgraded by 70 gigalitres, from 390GL to 320GL.
The MDBA downgraded northern water recovery after a four year socio-economic and environmental study. It was approved by the Coalition government last year.
But the Greens said the MDBA and the Coalition had brought dysfunction to the Basin Plan, implemented by the Labor government in 2012.
“Communities no longer trust the Murray Darling Basin Plan is working, and they can’t be assured that the MDBA, or the Federal government are doing what is needed to get the Plan back on track,” said Greens Murray Darling Basin spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young on February 15, the day after her successful disallowance motion.
But apparently the Greens are not worried enough to send someone to Friday’s Estimates hearing with the MDBA, a point not missed by the National Farmers’ Federation.
“Today the contemptuous and destructive approach continued, with the Greens failing to take the opportunity to discuss the Party’s concerns with the Basin Plan,” said NFF water chairman Les Gordon.
“It is an insult of the highest order for our Basin communities that after weeks of media grandstanding by Sarah Hanson-Young, a now silent Greens party appears not to have the willingness to actually talk through the issues.”
Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said the disallowance was “childish vandalism” and accused the Greens of being afraid of confronting Basin Plan experts.
“Having vandalised the Murray Darling Basin, the Greens can’t even be bothered showing up to important hearings which might educate them on what they’ve done,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Perhaps the Greens didn’t attend because the experts would have criticised their policy of wrecking the Plan.”
The Greens have also put forward another disallowance motion which is just as controversial as their first.
They want to disallow the MDBA’s approval for 37 offset projects which it calculated can reduce the Basin Plan’s 2750GL recovery target by 605GL.
Offset projects are designed to upgrade infrastructure to move water more efficiently, particularly into environmental assets such as wetlands, which in turn allows the volume required to be recovered from irrigation to be reduced.
The Greens say the projects are based on flimsy projections of water savings. They want to force the MDBA to reconsider.
NSW and Victoria are leading proponents of the offset projects, which they say will reduce the economic burden on irrigators but also improve the river’s carrying capacity for environmental water.