Federal ministers are at loggerheads over the Murray-Darling Basin plan

Controversy has erupted over a plan for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan amid claims the river system is being put at risk after a federal minister claimed the deal was dead.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the Murray-Darling Basin plan was “over” and “done”. “We’re don’t need to take any more water off farmers,

It’s now down to infrastructure to return that water to the environment. And farmers should be left alone to get on with the job that they do.”

But Deputy Premier and Water Minister Susan Close accused the federal government of neglect.

“These ongoing attacks put the river’s health and our state’s future prosperity at risk,

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from adelaide now 21.4.22

A war of words has erupted over the Murray-Darling Basin Plan amid claims the river system is being put at risk after a federal minister claimed the deal was dead.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on Wednesday ruled out authorities reintroducing controversial water buybacks for local farmers to help “buy votes” in South Australia.

In comments that angered the state government and Conservation SA, Mr Littleproud claimed the Murray-Darling Basin plan was “over” and “done”. “We’re don’t need to take any more water off farmers,” he told Sky News.

“It’s now down to infrastructure to return that water to the environment. And farmers should be left alone to get on with the job that they do.”

But Deputy Premier and Water Minister Susan Close accused the federal government of neglect.

“These ongoing attacks put the river’s health and our state’s future prosperity at risk,” she said.

“The Nationals continually run with hares and hunt with the hounds on the River Murray and they cannot be trusted with our … water allocation.”

Federal Labor also accused the government of “killing the plan”.

But Water Minister Keith Pitt said the government’s River Murray policy was unchanged. He highlighted licences covering more than 2100 billion litres of water.

The River Murray passing by the township of Waikerie in South Australia in Outback Australia. Picture: iStock

“We remain committed to the Murray-Darling Basin as it was negotiated,” he said.

“Unlike a Labor-Greens government, who are addicted to buybacks, (we) will deliver the plan, working with the states in a way that respects food production, the environment and basin communities.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has promised that if he becomes Prime Minister his “five-point plan” for the basin would restore 450 gigalitres to SA. Dr Close said just two of the 450GL had been delivered. She attacked new state Liberal leader David Speirs for saying the plan was “getting there”.

Mr Speirs, the Water Minister for the past four years, accused Labor of playing politics and Dr Close of hypocrisy.

“I’d suggest Susan Close gets on with the job and picks up the phone and calls her interstate colleagues instead of trying to play the blame game,” he said.

“The timing of the National Party’s most recent commentary is more a reflection of (Labor’s) weakness.”

In 2020, the federal government scrapped buybacks of farmers’ water licences after 12 years of the Commonwealth paying irrigators’ entitlements to boost the river’s health.

The recent east coast floods have allowed 100 per cent of allocations for river irrigators.