Tuesday, 28 November 2023
Questions without Notice
Murray-Darling Basin Plan
My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Water. How is the Albanese Labor government working to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan after a decade of delay, and why is it important for the parliament to support these efforts?
I want to thank the member for Makin for his question and for his support for the restoring our rivers bill, which is such an important opportunity for this parliament to finally deliver on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Of course, those opposite say that they also support the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but, in their close to a decade in government, they did everything they could to stymie and undermine the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. In fact, more than 80 per cent of all water that has been recovered towards the plan has been recovered when Labor has been in government—just 16 per cent under those opposite. Of the target of 450 gigalitres of additional environmental water, those opposite achieved just two. In fact, what they did was ignore more than 10 warnings from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority—
and from the Productivity Commission in the Water for the Environment Special Account reviews that the plan was off track. It's supposed to be delivered in the middle of next year. There was no chance that it would get there under the settings of those opposite. In fact, they say the plan's still on track. Yes, on track to be delivered sometime around the year 4000 at the rate that they were going!
We promised we'd deliver the plan. That's what we're doing. The legislation, of course, is in the Senate at the moment, and it will give more time, more opportunities, more money—
Opposition members interjecting—
and more accountability. I'm very grateful to the Greens political party in the Senate and to Senator David Van, who have both publicly said that they will vote for the restoring-our-rivers bill, and I'm very keen to see other senators do the same, because we know that the next drought in Australia is just around the corner. We know that there are three million Australians who rely on the Murray-Darling system for their drinking water. We know that there are agricultural industries and—
we know that there are other industries that rely on water in the system.
And of course there is our environment. We know that there are 16 Ramsar wetlands and 35 endangered bird species. We know that more than 90 per cent of our native fish have gone. Unless we see this restoring-our-rivers bill go through the Senate, we won't deliver on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. That means more water purchase because the projects won't be finished. By supporting restoring our rivers, we support local communities and we support the environment. (Time expired)