Water

Change welcomed

By Country News

A change in shadow water minister has been welcomed by Speak Up, which says former water minister Tony Burke had lost the confidence of regional communities.

Queensland MP Terri Butler was appointed to the role earlier this month and will also be responsible for the environment portfolio.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said Mr Burke, who was the water minister when the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was legislated in 2012, struggled to acknowledge the plan’s shortcomings.

She said she hoped Ms Butler would bring a fresh approach to water policy which would see good water policy and protecting the environment go hand in hand.

‘‘They do not have to be in competition, which appears to be the way Labor has approached water in the past,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘We need an appropriate balance that protects the environment and our communities, and that is something Mr Burke has struggled with during his term as Labor water minister, and later water spokesperson.’’

Mrs Scoullar said Speak Up would welcome a visit to the southern basin.

‘‘In the past (Labor) has encouraged buybacks, which are detrimental to communities,’’ she said.

‘‘It also intended to scrap the social and economic testing that was developed by federal and state water ministers to help protect our towns and jobs.

‘‘We are hoping Ms Butler will see that Labor’s approach before the election caused considerable concern to our communities, for good reason.

‘‘We believe it is time Labor acknowledged the damage which has been caused by the basin plan — after all, it was the party which promised our communities would be protected — and works towards balance and solutions.’’

National Irrigators’ Council chief executive officer Steve Whan said they were looking forward to working with Ms Butler.

‘‘Australia’s irrigation farmers are among the world’s most efficient and sustainable, growing more than 84 per cent of the fruit and vegetables Ms Butler’s constituents in southern Brisbane eat, along with dairy products, sugar, cotton, rice, nuts and wine,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘Right now, many of these farmers are doing it very tough with eastern Australia experiencing one of its worst droughts.

‘‘We look forward to the contribution of these hard-working farmers continuing to be recognised by the Anthony Albanese-led opposition and, in the Murray-Darling Basin, continuing to work toward an outcome with produces healthy rivers, healthy communities and a continuing capacity to produce food and fibre for Australia.’’