Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Murray-Darling Basin Plan
I, and at the request of Senators Wong, Farrell and Gallagher move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(ii) the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources has authority over the function of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan;
(b) further notes that, in his time as the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, former Minister Joyce:
(i) dismissed the suggestion that the Commonwealth investigate allegations of water theft as broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners program,
(ii) instead described those allegations as a conspiracy to 'take more water' from irrigators in an effort to 'shut more of your towns down',
(iii) suggested that allegations that irrigators in New South Wales have undermined the Murray-Darling Basin Plan were an issue for New South Wales only, as 'the people who live around where that water may have been taken live all in New South Wales',
(iv) indicated that the reason he held the responsibility for the water portfolio was to "make sure we don't have greenies running the show",
(v) stated that the decision to incorporate the water portfolio into the broader agriculture portfolio was to 'look after' irrigator communities in New South Wales, and
(vi) suggested the allegations were broadcast by Four Corners out of sympathy for 'radical greens organisations';
(c) acknowledges that the Australian taxpayer has bought billions of litres of water back under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, giving all Australians, in every state and territory, an interest in ensuring this water is used for its stated purpose;
(d) recognises that bestowing on a single minister responsibility for both agriculture and water creates a conflict of interest; and
(e) calls on the Government to split the portfolios of water and agriculture and to not return the responsibility for water to former Minister Joyce.
I seek leave to move an amendment to general business notice of motion No. 641 moved by Senator Hanson-Young.
by leave—I move:
In paragraph (e), omit the words 'and to not return the responsibility for water to former Minister Joyce'.
Question agreed to.
The government is firmly committed to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister swiftly initiated a basin-wide review of state based compliance and enforcement in response to various media reports. The Prime Minister announced the outcomes of the review on 25 November and committed to implementing its recommendations and working with basin jurisdictions to strengthen compliance. The allocation of ministerial portfolios and administrative arrangements is a matter for the Prime Minister and not for direction by the Senate.
Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals are white-anting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and the Liberals are just sitting back and letting them do it. They continue to put Barnaby Joyce's career ahead of delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full and on time. We've now seen a series of reviews and reports raise extremely serious concerns about compliance and enforcement, particularly in New South Wales: The Matthews report; the New South Wales Ombudsman's report; the Murray–Darling Basin water compliance review; and the Commonwealth Auditor-General's review of New South Wales’ protection and use of environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin. We've also seen the previous head of New South Wales water, Gavin Hanlon, refer himself to ICAC. Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals can't be trusted with the water portfolio. Labor supports this motion.
This motion clearly identifies that there is a conflict of interest between the minister holding responsibility for both the agriculture and the water portfolios. The minister, Barnaby Joyce, has already admitted that he has a conflict of interest because he said that his primary priority is looking after big irrigators, not the river and not the environment. It is a clear conflict of interest, and this Senate is voting today to get it fixed.
Leave is not granted. The question is that notice of motion No. 641 standing in the name of Senator Hanson-Young, as amended, be agreed to.
Senator Gallagher did not vote, to compensate for the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Parry.
Senator Polley did not vote, to compensate for the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Nash.
Senator Williams did not vote, to compensate for the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Kakoschke-Moore.