The Albanese government's plan to overhaul the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is one step closer to fruition, passing through the House of Representatives with multiple amendments by rural independent politicians.
The legislation will give the basin plan more time and money to be completed, and make it easier for the government to purchase water licences, and will now go before the Senate.
Independent MP Helen Haines amendments were backed, which will let the Inspector-General of Water Compliance to audit the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's calculation, and review the payments made to communities impacted by buybacks to ensure they are adequate.
The government also supported a proposal from Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, which will require the Water Minister to present an annual progress report towards the 450GL target for environmental water.
Coalition MPs made emotional contributions in protest of the bill and its amendments, opposing the legislation for opening the plan up to buybacks.
One rural Liberal MP was heard muttering "this is sickening, I feel sick" during one of the many divisions, and Nationals leader David Littleproud said rural Australians had been sacrificed for inner-city votes.
"Those three million who live up and down the basin, their future has just been ripped away with the stroke of a pen," Nationals leader David Littleproud said.
"For the rest of the nation, you will also pay this bill, because your cost of living will go up. If you take away the tools farmers need, then you will pay that consequence."
Dr Haines acknowledged water policy was complex and contested.
"As an Independent regional MP, I make my decisions based on what is best for Indi, what is evidence-based, and what sets up rural and regional Australia to thrive," she said.
"This Labor Government doesn't always get it right when it comes to regional Australia, so I worked hard to negotiate with the Minister to get a better outcome for Indi and for regional Australia."
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the bill was another step towards fulfilling Labor's promise of delivering the MDBP in full.
"Water purchase is never the only tool in the box, it's not the first tool at hand, but it has to be one of them," Ms Plibersek said.
The Greens abstained from voting, as the party awaits the result of the ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the bill. However, the Greens vote will be crucial in the bill passing through the Senate and into law, which the government hopes to do before the end of the year.
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