Protesters have travelled to Parliament House in Canberra calling for an urgent end to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
- Around 2,000 people in 110 trucks protested in Canberra calling for an end to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
- The National Farmers’ Federation says no plan is not the answer
- The Water Minister called for calm to see the plan through to full delivery by 2024
The ‘Can the Plan’ convoy brought buses and trucks of protesters from the northern and southern basin.
Organisers suggested there were as many as 110 trucks and more than 2,000 people attending the protest, but there were no official estimates.
The convoy carried signs that read: “Can the plan”, “No water, no farm, no future”, and “MDBP a no-brainer. It’s not bloody working, wake up”.
Trucks drove laps past Parliament House, slowing traffic, with slogans describing the basin plan as an “unnatural disaster”.
The protesters had created effigies of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Water Minister David Littleproud, and Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
One of the organisers, Barooga farmer Carly Marriott, said the basin plan had devastated her community.
“This is affecting every single person in our community, and we might not be the majority but God we’re important. And you need us,” Ms Marriott told the ABC.
The $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan was signed into law in 2012, with water recovery expected to be complete by 2024.
NFF: No plan not the answer
The National Farmers’ Federation did not support the protest, but in a statement said it shared many of the concerns of those rallying.
“No plan is not the answer to this very complex challenge,” NFF president Fiona Simson said in a statement.
Ms Simson said she agreed with those who said “the plan needed to be fixed and fixed now”.
She called for State and Federal Water Ministers to immediately implement the recommendations of the productivity commission, cease to recover 450 gigalitres of water from farms, ensure the Basin Inspector-General had adequate resources and appropriate powers, and ensure an urgent response to the outcomes of the ACCC water trading study and Sefton socio-economic review.
“Petulance and division from the jurisdictions must be set aside,” Ms Simson said
“People are hurting in many different ways and from many causes.”
MDBA: Ditching the plan does not turn the tap on
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s chief executive, Phillip Glyde, said the basin plan was adaptive and flexible.
“Pausing or ditching the basin plan doesn’t turn the taps or pumps on, and it doesn’t alleviate the pain being felt in these communities during drought,” Mr Glyde said.
“We have to acknowledge the significant pain that people are going through as a result of the drought and the significant pain that has occurred as a result of 15 or more years of water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“This is a huge reform and I think the broader Australian community is unaware of the sacrifices that the farming community, the irrigated community, is going through.”
“Roughly 20 per cent of the water that had previously been used, quite legally, by farmers has been returned to the environment because six governments decided and were aware of the science that said if we continued down that path of using that water, we would not have an environment, we would not have a healthy river.”
Minister to meet protesters
Water Minister David Littleproud and Environment Minister Sussan Ley were expected to meet with protesting irrigators on Monday afternoon.
Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has repeatedly described the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as “an imperfect plan”.
Last week he called for calm and leadership to see the plan delivered in full by 2024.
“There is a supply issue that is very real out there and that’s because it hasn’t rained and water hasn’t run into the rivers,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We’ve got to be calm, rational, use common sense, and make sure that any actions don’t have an unintended consequence.”
A government spokesperson acknowledged there were communities doing it tough across the Murray-Darling Basin.
“We respect the protesters. They are passionate and they’re doing it tough,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to support irrigators and all farmers during the drought and continue to step up our support as the drought steps up.
“Scrapping the basin plan will not add any more water to the basin and will not change the way water is shared between NSW, Victoria and South Australia under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.
“The reality is if we canned the basin plan, not one extra gigalitre would appear in a dam and a future government could implement a worse plan on farmers.”
The protest follows revelations that State and Federal Minsters have required police protection following several violent threats.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson were among those meeting the crowd.
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