House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Statements by Members

Murray-Darling Basin

1:57 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Like a lot of Australians, when I'm on holidays over Christmas I try to switch off from the news, but there was no escaping the appalling enormity of the environmental disaster unfolding in the Menindee Lakes. The footage and images of the river choked with dying for shocked us all. As one observer described it, it was mainland Australia's version of a coral bleaching of the reef. I wrote to the government asking for answers for an inquiry, but they weren't interested. Fortunately, the Australian Academy of Science has stepped up. Ten eminent professors volunteered to serve on an expert panel. They spoke to local authorities, traditional owners, irrigators and the whole community around Menindee and then they submitted their report for international peer review. That's how we should do things: listen to the people on the ground, get the smart people in the room, recheck the evidence and get a consensus around a solution.

This is a very significant report with detailed recommendations that the parliament should now consider. The drought played a role in the fish kills, but that's not the whole story. Simply put, there isn't enough high-quality water in the Murray-Darling, and the ongoing mismanagement is hurting the river, hurting farmers and hurting the environment. We can't say that we don't know; we do. We can't say that we weren't warned; we have been. Barkindji elder William 'Badger' Bates said to me this morning: 'We don't want the water for ourselves; we want it for everyone. It's our duty to protect it.' So I seek leave to table the Australian Academy of Science's report into the causes of the mass fish kills in the Menindee area over the summer of 2018-19.

Leave granted.