Monday, 21 June 2021
That the Senate—
(a) notes that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a bipartisan framework for the sustainable use of water in the Murray-Darling basin system;
(b) supports a river system that has healthy ecosystems, agricultural production, sustainable local communities and encourages First Nations cultural practices;
(c) further notes the commitment of the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia (Mr Pitt) to recover all of the 450 gigalitres from New South Wales and Victoria in his press release of 4 September 2020; and
(d) supports the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in full and on time.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
One Nation does support completing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in principle, so we agree with (a), (b) and (d). South Australia is owed 450 gigalitres, with 70 gigalitres already underway. However, One Nation objects to (c). New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have given up enough water. The farming community has been decimated by what has been taken so far. Enough is enough. Why would anyone think taking water from 2,000 kilometres away, in Queensland, to fix salinity in the Lower Lakes makes more sense than using the water that is right there now, flowing through man-made drains straight out to the sea every time it rains? This is madness. Fresh water flowing into the Southern Ocean is killing the seagrass beds, while the Coorong, which should naturally receive this water, is dying of hypersalinity. This is what Senator O'Neill wants to continue. This is madness. Turn the drains back around and leave the family farms alone.
The government is committed to working with the states in a bipartisan manner to support the implementation of the plan through the recovery of water through $1.3 billion of off-farm efficiencies and $234 million for the Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package, all while ruling out further buybacks, which cost jobs and hurt our regional basin communities. The coalition will be opposing part (c) of the motion as it's based on an incorrect interpretation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as well as a misrepresentation of Minister Pitt's 4 September 2020 media release on the government's commitments to working with the basin states in putting communities at the heart of the plan in its implementation.
One of the things I like about the Murray-Darling is it does turn the Senate into the states' house and we see all the different perspectives and that's very rare. But the fact of the matter is that there was an agreement to the plan and, that included the 450 gigalitres, so you can't walk back from that now. That is an important element. It was something that South Australia negotiated before it ceded powers to the Commonwealth in relation to this, and it can't be rescinded. We need to support the plan in full.
The 450 gigalitres is absolutely essential for the survival of the Murray-Darling Basin and it has been promised in the plan and promised to South Australia. What I am worried about is what on earth is going to happen now that Barnaby Joyce is the Leader of the National Party. This is the bloke who told South Australians, 'If you want more water, move to Queensland.' That is the bloke who is now the Deputy Prime Minister. This is shameful, absolutely shameful. South Australians are going to be worried that the Deputy Prime Minister of this country thinks that South Australia doesn't deserve any water, let alone the 450 gigalitres.
The National Party will be supporting sections (a) and (b) as statements of fact as written. We do not support section (c), as it is a misrepresentation of the facts and, certainly, a misrepresentation and a misquotation of the very press release as asserted. Furthermore, we do not support section (d), because it is a misrepresentation of what is in the Basin Plan. The Basin Plan, as written by former minister Tony Burke back in 2012, said that the extra 450 gigalitres must be based on no negative social and economic impacts, and it has been shown time and time again that there will be negative social and economic impacts. In fact, all basin ministers, including South Australian ones, agreed to the criteria, and that must be respected.
I thank the Senate. Well, it hasn't taken long, has it? We saw what Mr Joyce said about the Murray-Darling plan and about the 450 gigalitres. He said, 'You have not got a hope in Hades'. It's pretty clear the way the National Party is going to operate now under Mr Joyce. South Australians will remember Mr Joyce telling people to move. They will remember Mr Joyce telling South Australians the way to deal with water shortages in the Murray-Darling was for them to move. They will remember the contribution that was just made where the National Party essentially undermined what has been a bipartisan position on the Murray-Darling plan. I look forward to Senators Birmingham and Ruston doing the right thing and making sure they deliver what they said they would.
The question is that general business notice of motion No. 1127, parts (a) and (b), standing in the name of Senator O'Neill, be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I'm now going to put part (c). The question is that general business notice of motion No. 1127, part (c), standing in the name of Senator O'Neill, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. [15:58]