A change in Labor’s water spokesperson has been welcomed by community-based organisation Speak Up.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced that Member for the Queensland seat of Griffith, Terri Butler, would take the roles of Environment and Water in his new Shadow Cabinet.
Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said a change from Tony Burke, who had lost the confidence of regional communities, was welcomed. Mr Burke was Water Minister when the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was legislated, and has found it difficult to acknowledge the plan’s failures.
Mrs Scoullar said she hopes Ms Butler will bring a fresh approach to water policy and gain an appreciation that good water policy and protecting the environment can 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 by Ms Butler so she can get a first-hand account of why the Opposition needs to change its approach to water policy.
‘‘In the past it has encouraged buy-backs, which are detrimental to communities. 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.’’
Mrs Scoullar said she was buoyed by the fact Ms Butler is a family person with two children who has expressed a priority of fighting for job security and a prosperous future in her community.
‘‘That’s all we want,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.
‘‘We do not believe that seeking policy which gives our region job security and economic prosperity is too much to ask.
‘‘But to achieve this security and prosperity our food and fibre producers need water. Pouring it down the river and causing unnatural flooding and waste along the way is bad policy and totally defies common-sense.
‘‘We would welcome the opportunity to show Ms Butler around our region and talk to her about ways which can protect the environment, and at the same time give food and fibre producers, and the communities which rely on them, a fair go.’’