House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Questions without Notice

Murray-Darling Basin

2:59 pm

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for the Environment. There is an ecological disaster in the Darling River at Menindee Lakes. Why is it that the environmental minister has not visited and is completely missing in action?

3:00 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

It is indeed very disappointing, at a time when many communities along the Murray-Darling Basin are in a very distressed state, that you should come in this place and politicise this. How very disappointing! We know that the recent fish deaths in the Murray-Darling Basin are a terrible reminder of the devastating effects of drought on our environment. It is distressing for all of those communities along there.

It does highlight the importance of water for the environment during these dry times. Like all other users during dry times, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, who I am responsible for, receives lower water allocations, and the scale of environmental water is, necessarily, reduced. Federal and state governments are working together—and I'm sure the opposition are well aware of that—to monitor conditions across the Murray-Darling Basin, with environmental flows being provided to benefit native fish in catchments where environmental water is available.

In the Murray-Darling Basin, significant rainfall and flows are needed to alleviate the poor water quality. There is currently no capacity for the environmental flows to improve those conditions. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, who I'm responsible for, is monitoring the situation closely and, clearly, I have been in very, very close contact with her. People will know that back in 2018 the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder worked closely with the New South Wales government, and we know that a critical refuge watering action is currently under way in the lower Murrumbidgee River to protect habitats, mitigate poor water quality and reduce the risk of further fish kills.

We on this side are not politicising this issue, and I'm very surprised that the opposition representative—in his past life he's been criticised—would allow this matter to be raised today.

We are a team on this side. We have the water minister; he is responsible for water, and I'm sure the opposition minister for water understands that.

Opposition members: More, more!

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Members on my left! There will be more ejections under 94(a) if members on my left don't cease interjecting.