TWO attempts to overturn the Murray-Darling Basin plan in parliament have fallen flat.
The disallowance motions, moved by Nationals MP Michael McCormack and Katter's Australian Party MP Bob Katter, were both defeated in the lower house today.
Mr McCormack, whose represents the Riverina at the heart of the basin, announced earlier this week he would challenge the plan on behalf of the irrigators in his electorate.
He labelled the plan an "assault" on the 2.1 million people who live in basin communities and produce around 40 per cent of the nation's food.
"They deserve a future, just like all Australians," he told the chamber today.
"This plan says that my electorate must have hundreds of billions of litres of its lifeblood taken away from it."
Liberal MP Sharman Stone, who seconded the motion, said her electorate of Murray had been looking after the environmental needs of the basin for two centuries.
The implication that farmers in her Victorian district had wasted water for years and knew nothing of sustainability was insulting.
"It's not in our nature in Murray to simply look the other way when governments deliberately or knowingly do us wrong," she said.
"We know that if we don't get the environment right, then we can't continue to be productive."
Mr Katter, whose northern Queensland electorate of Kennedy falls outside the basin, said Mr McCormack and Dr Stone had nobody to blame but themselves for the economic decline of their communities.
Changes during the Howard years to push up the value of the Australian dollar and to allow fruit and fibre imports from abroad had routed small basin towns, not water cutbacks, he argued.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said if parliament "blew up" the plan, they wouldn't have a chance like this again to help the ailing basin environment.
"I implore the parliament to not miss the opportunity before us today," he said.
Mr McCormack's motion was defeated but he did win the support of Dr Stone, Mr Katter, Liberal MP Alby Schultz and Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Mr Katter accepted the fate of his motion and didn't put it to a division.