Labor and the Greens will team up to sink the federal government's proposed changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The Greens are spearheading a motion to disallow changes, proposed by the government last year, that would see a reduction in the amount of water returned to the environment.
“This is an act of bastardry,” Minister for Water David Littleproud said in response on Tuesday.
“These Labor senators are gutless traitors to Queensland. They’re destroying lives of Queenslanders they represent.”
The Greens say compliance issues are being mismanaged and have concerns regarding allegations of water theft and the rorting of water infrastructure funding.
“Unless we do something drastically to fix this plan, the river is going to die,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
“The government wants to give less water to the river and more water to corporate irrigators, and we’re saying no.”
In its party room meeting on Tuesday, Labor confirmed it would support the motion.
“Labor is also concerned about the lack of clarity around the impact on the health of environmental sites,” Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said in a statement.
Labor’s concerns include data and modelling inaccuracy, allegations of corruption, and a lack of indigenous consultation.
The Nick Xenophon Team also announced it would support the disallowance motion.
“While NXT supports the Murray-Darling Basin Plan being implemented in full, confidence in that implementation has been eroded over the past twelve months,” Senator Rex Patrick said.
“When you combine recent allegations of water theft, a complaint about lack of transparency, concerns about high water buyback prices, a refusal to commit to a federal Royal Commission and the fact that remedies in other inquiries have not been fully implemented, things need to change before moving forward.”
Responding to the disallowance motion, NSW Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair said federal Labor and the Greens were using the issue for political gain.
“Make no mistake; this is the Tony Burke and Hanson-Young team walking away from a positive outcome for the environment and communities in northern New South Wales and Queensland,” the minister said in a statement.
He said the motion would force NSW to reconsider its participation in the ministerial council which oversees the basin plan.
“By picking and choosing the parts of the basin plan that suit them, they are driving a wedge between themselves and the other states that are working tirelessly to make the basin plan a success,” Mr Blair said.