WHILE Barnaby Joyce was dominating the headlines last week, an important issue that effects hundreds of jobs in the region slid under the radar.
The government’s attempts to pass an amendment to the Murray Darling Basin Plan was blocked, which has left the multi-billion dollar plan in jeopardy.
It’s an issue close to the heart of Parkes MP Mark Coulton – his electorate holds one-third of the entire basin.
“A review, which has taken four years and was agreed upon at the formation of the plan, found 70 gigalitres of water could go back into productive use without impacting the environment," Mr Coulton said.
However, Labor, the Greens and some of the crossbenchers, teamed up to block the reform – a move Mr Coulton said was done purely for political point scoring.
He pointed to the South Australian state election, and the upcoming by-election in Batman, where Labor and the Greens are fighting over the inner-Melbourne seat.
“It’s a shocking move,” he said.
“Everyone was in agreement with the process of the review. Everyone realised that not everyone will get want they want, but they all agreed with the process.
“These communities have been going through this review for years. A week ago, it looked like we were at the end of process – now, they don’t know where they are. It’s frustrating and upsetting.”
Without the additional 70GL, Mr Coulton said 180 jobs were at risk in his electorate alone, including 56 in Moree.
With the plan stalling in the federal government, the NSW and Victorian state governments have threatened to walk away from the plan.
“The only option now is to wait for the elections to pass, then try to bring Labor back to the table, Mr Coulton said.
“A lot of work will have to be done prior, just to hang on to the scraps and cobble it together to keep going, and it’s going to need a lot more good will than we saw last week,” he said.
The Parkes MP admitted it had been a “pretty tough week” for the government, but said the National Party remained committed to its leader, despite the media speculation.
“Barnaby is an incredibly effective politician,” he said.
“In my 10 years, I’ve never see anyone be able to cut through and get funding for projects like he has.
“It has been frustrating to see the attention this is getting and the party room hopes this issue moves on.”