By Andrew Bolt ~
This can’t be right.
How did a discussion about construction sites turn into haggling over irrigation water?
Malcolm Turnbull has agreed to a key demand from Senate powerbroker Nick Xenophon to amend the government’s workplace relations reforms in a major step towards a wider deal on Murray-Darling water flows after a weekend of high-stakes negotiations to rescue his agenda.
The Prime Minister has signed off on tough new rules to withhold lucrative government contracts from builders who fail to pay their subcontractors on time, offering Senator Xenophon the assurance as a sign of good faith in the talks on water reform.
Mr Turnbull is also canvassing new pledges to improve the Murray-Darling river system in a last-minute bid to prevent Senator Xenophon withdrawing his party’s support from all government legislation until his water reform demands are met.
Turnbull is desperate to get Xenophon’s support on his IR bill because failure will confirm suspicions he is the Dr Doolittle of politics.
But the Nationals are upset that their voters are paying for this:
The government is seeking a way to invest in water efficiency across the river system to assure the South Australian crossbencher that his home state will get the benefit of an additional 450 gigalitres meant to flow by 2024 to meet a written agreement between Canberra and the states.
Senator Xenophon has suggested three potential projects: increasing the capacity of the Menindee Lakes in NSW; making it easier for water to flow to South Australia downriver from the Barmah Choke; and expanding levees in Yarrawonga to prevent water being wasted in floods.However, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said yesterday the three projects already were included in the basin plan — and already were factored in to the release of 2750GL meant to happen before the 450GL flow by 2024.
If Joyce is right, that means Xenophon’s water will come largely from farmers.
And if the Nationals don’t defend their farmers there are now other political parties that will:
Liberal Democratric Party senator David Leyonhjelm is threatening to withdraw his support for the ABCC bill if the government does a deal with Senator Xenophon that hurts farming communities.
“Infrastructure savings are fine, but recovering water through the resumption of buybacks is not acceptable,” Senator Leyonhjelm said, adding the 2750GL target was difficult without further buybacks.
Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.