Environment Minister Tony Burke
Environment Minister Tony Burke

Bill for water buy-backs passed in parliament

AFTER days of heated debate between Federal politicians, a key financial bill for Murray-Darling Basin Plan water buy-backs passed parliament on Thursday.

The new laws will see some $1.77 billion primarily spent to buy back water from irrigators and other big water users throughout the nation's biggest river catchment.

The Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill was a crucial plank of Environment Minister Tony Burke's lengthy negotiations with states on the issue.

"The plan on its own was never enough. The modelling said to get the basin back to the standard of health required, the Government had to interact with the plan to get an extra 450GL back into the system," he said.

"Without this legislation the money required for the 450GL could not be guaranteed.

"Last year we locked in that there would be a plan, today we have locked in the health of the basin."

But Coalition spokesman on regional development Senator Barnaby Joyce earlier in the week said the new laws would preference the protection of frogs over the people who earn their living from the basin.

He said in the Senate that the balance should be equal between the environmental and social and economic outcomes, rather than leaning towards the environment.

But Mr Burke's Senate representative Senator Don Farrell said the long and complex negotiations were intended to get the balance right between all parties, including the states, primary producers and the environment.