Tuesday, 25 February 2020
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(ii) water from recent rains has not yet made it down the river and there are still towns without drinking water, dry catchments and storages and fish species facing collapse,
(iii) the Murray-Darling Basin Authority says it is too early to say whether all storages will receive water, or if flows will be enough to connect the rivers,
(v) upstream Basin states making decisions that only benefit them puts the entire river system in jeopardy, and
(vi) the Murray-Darling Basin is on the verge of collapse, and family farms, river communities and the environment need national leadership; and
(b) calls on the NSW Government to reinstate the moratorium on floodplain harvesting and water pumping.
Matters regarding flood-plain harvesting, allocations and water access are the responsibilities of individual state jurisdictions. We're advised by New South Wales that they have actively managed the recent event to ensure that the first flush is protected and flows will reach Lake Wetherell. The health of the Murray-Darling Basin is a priority of the federal government, and we'll continue to engage with all states in a cooperative manner.
Labor won't be supporting the motion today, because it lets the Morrison government off the hook for its abject failure to manage the Murray-Darling Basin over the last seven years. We also don't believe that motions in the Senate should be used as instruments for the Greens to instruct other governments what to do, particularly on issues that impact the entire Murray-Darling Basin.
I oppose this motion. The essence of flood plain water licences seems to have eluded Senator Hanson-Young. Licences to pump water in a flood happen only, unsurprisingly, in a flood. Once the floodwaters soak into the ground, there's no pumping allowed. What this motion says is that Queensland farmers who have waited up to 10 years for a flood should be prevented from pumping the water that they have a legal right to access. How many more farmers do the Greens want to put out of business? Meanwhile, the farmers Senator Hanson-Young wants to receive these floodwaters in South Australia are already on a 100 per cent allocation. One Nation does agree that we need an urgent audit of floodwater harvesting in the northern basin, but to stop extraction until that audit is completed demonstrates a contempt for the property rights of farmers in my state of Queensland.