Thursday, 14 February 2019
Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 1374 relating to the Murray-Darling Basin and standing in my name for today by replacing the word 'adopt' in paragraph (b)(i) with the words 'immediately respond' and adding the words 'and the Productivity Commission's review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan' to the end of the sentence.
I move the motion ad amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Murray-Darling Basin needs more water to ensure its survival, the latest evidence of this being the fish-kills at Menindee Lakes,
(ii) the management of the Murray-Darling Basin requires urgent reform,
(iii) the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission delivered its findings on 29 January 2019, including recommendations to:
(A) improve transparency by "requiring real-time data sharing and publication on water extractions",
(B) abolish the water buybacks cap of 1,500 gigalitres, and
(C) undertake further research into return flows so that we know the effects of irrigation efficiency projects, and
(iv) the Productivity Commission delivered its findings to the Federal Government on 19 December 2018, pointing out that:
(A) the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's twin roles as overseer of the Plan and its regulator are "conflicted and the conflicts will intensity in the next five years", and
(B) structural separation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority into a Basin Plan Regulator and Murray-Darling Basin Agency is required to ensure effective implementation of the Plan; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) immediately respond to each and every recommendation proposed by the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission's review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and
(ii) proceed with the structural separation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, as proposed by the Productivity Commission.
The government is considering carefully the South Australian royal commission and notes the report was commissioned by the South Australian government. The government has already indicated it will develop a response to the Productivity Commission's five-year assessment of the Basin Plan. It is appropriate that the response to the Productivity Commission report be developed in close consultation with the basin state and territory jurisdictions and communities.
One Nation is in support of most parts of this notice of motion. However, I do not support paragraph (b)(i) of the motion, which, in effect, calls for water plans to be subject to climate change predictions. The Murray-Darling river flows have always been highly variable. Flows have been recorded as high as 117,907 gigalitres in 1956 and as low as 6,740 gigalitres in 2006. Instead of playing the zero-sum game, where farmers have to lose water in order for the environment to gain it, it is time to think differently about the problem. We need to look seriously at a revised hybrid Bradfield Scheme to bring water from the north and south to Lake Eyre and to the Murray-Darling. The Murray-Darling cannot be turned into a natural river system, but we can increase the river flows.