Wednesday, 3 April 2019
(1) The Senate:
(a) notes that:
(i) the Murray Darling Royal Commission recommended that future water recovery for the environment, including the 450 GL, should be purchased through buyback, which requires repeal of the 1,500 GL cap on buybacks in section 85C of the Water Act 2007, and
(ii) the future environmental health of the Murray-Darling Basin relies on additional water recovery; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to support the urgent repeal of the 1,500 GL limit on Commonwealth water purchases.
(2) This resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
We've seen one of the worst summers on record in parts of the basin and horrific fish kills. There's been report after report on the basin and the fish kills—by the Productivity Commission's review of the implementation of the Basin Plan, the South Australia Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, the Australian Academy of Science's review into the fish kills and the review commissioned by the minister into the fish kills—but the government seems intent on doing nothing.
Labor is committed to helping our rivers and restoring the Basin Plan. We've already introduced a bill to repeal Barnaby Joyce's 1,500-gigalitre cap on buybacks. In addition we've committed to: requiring the Basin Authority to update the science; an urgent review of climate change impacts now and into the future to determine any change to inflows and evaporation rates; urgently renegotiating the Menindee agreement, which determines how the lakes are managed; and restoring the correct socio-economic test for delivery of the 450 gigalitres through on-farm infrastructure projects in the basin. Labor will continue to stand up for the environment and protect the Murray-Darling Basin. (Time expired)
Adding to Senator O'Neill's comments, there are a number of things that are in the plan, such as supply measures, constraints and efficiency measures. We need to be very aware of the fact that the Productivity Commission, in addition to the South Australian royal commissioner, has indicated that these are highly risky and highly ambitious projects. Labor has introduced a bill to remove the 1,500-gigalitre cap. What's wrong with having tools in the toolkit of government that allow us to manage our river properly? I ask everyone to support this motion.
I, and the Australian Greens, obviously support this motion as put forward by Centre Alliance. I just want to place it on the record that while the National Party continue to control the water portfolio we will never get this river fixed. While Barnaby Joyce continues to funnel the taxpayers' money into the pockets of his big corporate cotton-grower mates, we will never be able to save this river. If we're going to save the environment and if we're going to return the water the river needs, we have to kick out the National Party and get their hands off our Murray-Darling Basin.
There should not be a further 450 gigalitres sent to South Australia, given their mismanagement of water to date. South Australia have misused water. They have used water to basically turn a saltwater system into a freshwater system. They are saltwater lakes, not freshwater lakes. South Australians have misused water, sending fresh water to the Coorong, when the Coorong should be watered by water that is otherwise sent to the sea by the south-east drainage scheme of South Australia. South Australia have also misused water merely to keep the mouth of the Murray open. The only way you could send 450 gigalitres to South Australia is by ignoring the humans further upstream. Humans are a part of nature; they should not be ignored.
I would not have made a statement on this particular motion. However, the comments that I've just heard from Senator Spender require a response. To suggest that South Australia has been misusing its water, when South Australia has had a track record of responsible and efficient water management over the entire duration that the Murray-Darling Basin has been operating under an irrigation system, I think, just reflects the fact that you have absolutely no idea about the operation and management of our river system over the last hundred years. South Australia has never breached its cap. It has never exceeded its limit. It was an earlier adopter when it came to efficient irrigation practices. We're regarded as world's-best practice. For you to stand there and suggest that, in any way, South Australia has mismanaged, misrepresented or in any way not achieved and met its obligations under responsible river management just shows your complete ignorance and misunderstanding of river management.