MURRAY-DARLING SCHEME DAMMED

In the Senate, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Labor have rejected changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that would have freed up 70 gigalitres of water for irrigation and ensured state governments in New South Wales and Victoria support for the deal.

According to the ABC, the Senate voted 32 to 30 last night to disallow regulations that would have reduced the amount of water irrigators returned to the basin in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Greens cited environmental and Indigenous concerns in their campaign against the changes, while the Coalition’s plan was based on recommendations it would save roughly 200 jobs in irrigation-dependent northern basin communities.

While Labor and the Coalition negotiated right up until the vote itself, with reports indicating both federal parties will continue to seek a compromise on the issue, the NSW government has been quick to act on its threat to exit the arrangement.

“New South Wales under my stewardship will now start the process of withdrawing ourselves from the plan,” NSW Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said. “We will seek legal advice and unless Canberra can come up with a way to fix this, I won’t be attending anymore ministerial meetings in relation to the basin plan.”

Despite NSW’s announcement and the possibility of Victoria doing the same, The Guardian notes that the issue of a reduced water northern water recovery target is likely to be revisited as part of a debate over a second lot of changes over the southern basin plan, with a vote on the issue now postponed until May 7th.

BARNABY, BARNABY, BARNABY

Nationals leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has again dominated front pages for roughly the 400th day this year. Here are today’s talking points:

Fairfax papers report that grassroots Nationals members financed Joyce’s salary after falling foul of the dual citizenship crisis and, for six weeks, losing his $416,000-a-year job in the lead-up to the New England byelection.

A separate poll commissioned by Fairfax Media found that, after news of Joyce’s affair broke and triggered a number of new scandals, one-third of New England supporters have abandoned Joyce and almost 50% of respondents in the electorate think he should move to the backbench or resign from Parliament altogether.

The Daily Telegraph ($) reports that Joyce and staffer-turned-partner Vikki Campion continued to work together months after she was transferred to work for other National MPs in order to avoid breaching the ministerial code of conduct.

Finally, Joyce may have been granted a temporary reprieve from the political firestorm, at least from his own party, with The Australian ($) reporting that colleagues agreed to “let the dust settle” following an intervention from senior party figures led by Nationals president Larry Anthony.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“The notion that Qantas shouldn’t argue in favour of company tax cuts because of its financial losses and resulting tax status is nonsense. And it ignores the benefit to the broader economy that lower tax rates will bring.”

Qantas’ response to a report from the ABC that the company had paid no company tax in close to 10 years. Apparently, not being hamstrung in any substantial way by the current tax system for almost a decade is simply not good enough for the airline.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

‘The model absolutely fails’: Catholic primary schools face overhaul

How Labor’s energy spending spree has electrified the South Australian election

Let churches refuse weddings, Catholic bishops tell inquiry ($)

Sydney’s ‘complex and tangled’ rail network vulnerable, report finds

Peter Garrett tells: I quit rather than serve under Kevin Rudd ($)

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Last sitting day of Parliament for a fortnight. Returning Feb 26 with House and Senate estimates.

Adelaide: SA environment minister Ian Hunter and opposition spokesman Dan Van Pellekaan to speak at a Clean Energy Council forum.

Melbourne: Inquiry into public housing renewal; Public Accounts and Estimates Committee to hold hearings into 2016/17 financial performance outcomes.

Perth: Final inquiry report into the administration and management of the 2017 WA election to be tabled in parliament.

Wellington, NZ: ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will speak at a seminar on employing people with disabilities.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Ominous warning for Sydney in Cape Town water crisis — Eamon Waterford (SMH): “Within months, a city sitting on the same line of latitude as Sydney could become the first major metropolis in modern history to run out of water. When Cape Town hits its projected ‘Day Zero’, millions of taps will suddenly run dry. Schools, hospitals and other institutions will retain access to some water but households will be cut off completely.”

Short-term thinking gives nation a long-term headache — David Uren (The Australian $): “State oppositions increasingly regard the route to success being to promise not to build things. In Victoria, Liberal leader Matthew Guy is teaming up with the Greens vowing to annul contracts signed by the Andrews government for a tunnel to duplicate the West Gate Bridge. Daniel Andrews, of course, won the 2014 election promising to cancel the Liberal government’s East West Link project, saying he would instead invest the funds in removing level crossings. Guy obviously liked that pitch — he’s promising to invest in removing roundabouts and traffic lights.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Getting rid of Barnaby could spark a Turnbull turnaround — Bernard Keane: “The thin, but nonetheless very real, silver lining of the vast tropical low that is wreaking such havoc on the government at the moment is that Malcolm Turnbull will have a far better government without Barnaby Joyce. Getting rid of this incompetent flake and slapping the Nationals back into place will be just what the Prime Minister needs to start governing effectively.”

How poems from the Pacific Islands are fronting the fight for climate justice — Meg Watson: “In 2014, poet and climate justice activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner stood in front of the UN Climate Summit, pleading with world leaders to help her country. She spoke of the rising water that threatens the Marshall Islands, engulfing the land and literally ripping bodies from the earth, and recited a poem, directed to her infant daughter, which received a standing ovation.”

The government is letting us down on inflation — Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane: “While inflation remains at levels below the Reserve Bank’s target band of 2-3% — thus preventing Australian workers’ stagnant wages from turning into real wage falls — some industries are increasing prices far more rapidly than CPI. And they all tend to have similar characteristics: they’re private oligopolies or monopolies in heavily regulated industries. In effect, the greatest sources of price rises for family budgets rely on government permission for those increases.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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