House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Constituency Statements

Murray-Darling Basin

11:13 am

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Murray, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I take great optimism from the fact that we now have a Liberal government in South Australia and therefore will have a new Minister for Environment and Water, by the name of the Hon. David Speirs, in that state. We have an enormous amount of work to do in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. In recent interviews, I've heard the new minister talk about the need for a whole raft of goodwill in relation to getting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan completed.

Early in the plan, it was assumed that we would pick up around 2,000 gigalitres through buybacks. It soon became apparent that the government simply going into the market and indiscriminately buying the amounts of water held by various irrigators was an absolute disaster, with stranded assets right throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. What has become apparent now is that many of the irrigation communities have already given up far too much water, and the damage that is clear for everybody to see, with this water that has already left these communities, needs to be addressed.

This goodwill that the minister from South Australia has mentioned needs to apply to the Northern Basin Review, an independent review that looked into some of the southern Queensland areas and made the very clear and obvious assessment that too much water has been taken out of Goondiwindi, St George and Dirranbandi and that, in their scientific opinion, 70 gigalitres that was previously set aside for environmental flows has to be recommitted to productive agriculture. The Labor Party and the Greens in this federal parliament have disallowed this 70-gigalitre correction, and the goodwill that we need is to see that Northern Basin Review amount of 70 gigalitres put back into productive agriculture. The 605 gigalitres that has been set aside for environmental works and measures and that is going to come off the original 2,750 plan also needs to be put through at the very first opportunity.

I am hoping the new minister extends this goodwill to making sure that there is a rigorous and credible filter and assessment applied with a social and economic rider associated with 450 gigalitres of additional water that is going to be required by South Australia. I understand South Australia has a heavily piped and efficient system, and a sprinkler system, right throughout its Riverland. They look upstream to see what they consider to be a wasteful system. I understand that. However, to take more water out of the regions of the irrigators, the three million people that rely on the basin, is simply untenable.