Long time critic of the Cubbie Station operation, Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, does not believe a government buyout of the massive irrigation property would be an effective use of taxpayers' dollars in addressing the issue of over-allocation in Queensland.
Senator Heffernan joined Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon in today calling for an urgent Senate inquiry into how the Government should respond to the opportunity presented by Cubbie Station being placed on the market.
The Cubbie Group of properties in South West Queensland total more than 93,329 hectares and include 538,800 megalitres of water storage infrastructure.
The three properties are together on the market, and have been valued at $450 million.
The volume of water available to the cotton property has long made it a target of the anger of southern irrigators and environmentalists, who believe the levels of extraction are unsustainable and are harming the Darling River system.
The Queensland Government was foiled in its 2002 attempt to buy out the property, and Senators Heffernan and Xenophon believe a buy out is still the wrong option.
Instead, they believe Queensland's irrigation allocation system needs to be overhauled to be put on a sustainable footing.
This follows on from Senator Xenophon's call last week for the Federal Government to assume full responsibility for the Murray Darling Basin, removing any influence from State Government's with vested interests.
Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce says if the Government buy Cubbie's water, then it should also buy all of Dirranbandi, the small rural community which has Cubbie as its economic lifeblood.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert agreed with Senators Heffernan and Xenophon that the sale of Cubbie should also provoke a wider look at Australia's water laws.
"A Federal purchase of the property would only serve to reward the bad behaviour of the owners, who have long exploited Queensland's inadequate approach to water management, intercepting floodplain flows and depriving other farmers and the environment downstream," Senator Siewert said this afternoon.
The Greens believe that a complete overhaul of Queensland’s water regulations is needed before any Federal buy-up should take place.
"This problem highlights the need for a consistent national approach to water regulation. While States committed to deliver such reforms under the National Water Initiative decades later they have failed to deliver – making it necessary for stronger action from the Commonwealth.
"It would be pointless for the Federal Government to fork out hundreds of millions of dollars to buy this property, when there is little to stop someone building another Cubbie Station a few kilometres upstream or downstream and grabbing all the water."