Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012; In Committee

1:36 am

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move Australian Greens amendments (1) and (5) on sheet 7310.

(1) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 6), after item 1, insert:

1A Subsection 4(1)

(5) Schedule 1, item 10, page 9 (after line 30), after subsection 23B(6), insert:

(6A) The Minister must not adopt the amendment unless the Minister is satisfied that, if the amendment is made:

  (a) the long-term average sustainable diversion limit will continue to reflect an environmentally sustainable level of take; and

  (b) Australia's international obligations under the Ramsar Convention will be upheld; and

  (c) the long-term average sustainable diversion limit will maintain or improve the following environmental outcomes:

     (i) in relation to average daily salinity levels for Lake Alexandrina—less than 1500EC at all times and less than 1000EC for 95% of the time;

     (ii) in relation to average daily salinity levels for Coorong, South Lagoon—must not exceed 100 grams per litre in any 2 consecutive years and must remain less than 100 grams per litre for 96% of the time;

     (iii) in relation to barrage flows—greater than 2000 gigalitres per year on a 3 year rolling basis, with a minimum of 650 gigalitres per year for 95% of years, greater than 600 gigalitres in any 2 year period and greater than zero gigalitres in all years;

     (iv) in relation to the mouth of the River Murray—the mouth to be open to an average annual depth of 1 metre or more for at least 95% of years and to an average annual depth of 0.7 metres or more for at least 95% of years;

     (v) the environmental outcomes met under an integrated, Basin-wide, fit for purpose model run based on the levels of extraction contained in the BP-3200-RC model run and the 112 hydrologic indicator targets.

These amendments go right to the heart of what we need to be doing in setting a proper benchmark from which any adjustment to the plan must be measured. The amendments list a number of items that are crucial to ensuring that the Murray-Darling Basin plan continues to achieve the outcomes that it sets out.

This amendment outlines a number of key targets—trigger points or safety nets—to ensure that we set a proper benchmark. If there is a desire to adjust the Basin Plan at any stage, we will always know what it is that we are measuring it against: salinity levels in the Lower Lakes—Lake Alexandrina; salinity levels in the Coorong and the southern lagoon; and ensuring that the 112 target indicators that we used during the modelling by the authority of the 3,200 megalitre relaxed constraints run, which was the most recent model that the authority undertook, are met.

The last thing we want to do is allow for an adjustment up or down of the Basin Plan in a way that means we are not meeting the outcomes we set out to achieve at the beginning. By 2016 when there is a review and an ability to ascertain whether the plan can be adjusted, we need to make sure we understand what the benchmarks are. This is about putting those benchmarks, putting those agreed achievement points, into the legislation so that everybody knows what the game is and everybody understands what the aim of the plan is meant to be. As I mentioned, these targets are important specifically for my home state of South Australia, at the bottom of the system. We know, historically, that that region feels the brunt of a reduction in water first just because it is at the end of the system. Those salinity targets in places like Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong are absolutely crucial, but the main point of these amendments is that they identify environmental targets throughout the entire basin. It is not just about South Australia; this also includes targets in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland—right throughout the basin. They are targets that the authority itself has already identified as important. These are important things we have to achieve if we are to meet the overall objectives of the Water Act, which of course is to restore to health and retain the health of the Murray-Darling Basin system and protect our Ramsar listed icon sites.

This amendment lays down those really crucial safety nets. If we do not have these things in place, there are no guarantees that in two, four, five or 10 years time any of the things we have set out to achieve today will be met. We need to make sure that any adjustment to the levels of water to be returned to the river measure up to our ultimate aim, and that is to restore, protect and sustain those crucial environmental targets so that communities can continue to rely on a healthy Murray, so that communities down the end of the system, in my home state of South Australia, know that they will not just have an adjustment brought to this place in parliament and, regardless of who is in government at the time, it can just be ticked off without any understanding of the direct impact on the environment. As we know, in a drying climate, in a time of climate change, the needs of those icon sites and how these targets are being met and the ability to meet them will change. Setting down these needs and targets as solid benchmarks now will ensure that even though our approach to them will need to be flexible and we may adapt the amount of water needed to meet them, meeting them is the crucial point. That is what these amendments set out to ensure.


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