| August 14, 2017

Motion on the MDBP

I second the motion. It is always interesting following a South Australian Labor person in relation to a debate on water, and certainly the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The member has spoken about this promise of 3,200 gigalitres for the environment. Quite simply, what we have is a commitment for 27,500 gigs to go to the environment. What we further have is an understanding that if we can work out how we are going to deliver these environmental outcomes better, then we are going to be able to subtract 600 gigalitres from that in relation to works and measures that we're going to be able to undertake right throughout the Murray-Darling Basin to ensure that we reach our environmental outcomes in a more water-efficient manner. That's going to effectively save up to 600 gigalitres from having to be taken down the river in the manner that it would be without these works and measures.

We are talking predominantly about 2,100 gigs that has been delivered to the environment. We understand that the Greens would like to have 4,000 gigs. We understand that there are others out there that would like to have up to 5,000 and 6,000 gigs. There are always these voices that come out of South Australia that want, want, want. All they ever do is come into this place and squawk about what they want, but they are refusing to read the plan as it is. It clearly states that this additional 450 gigalitres of upwater is not to be delivered if it is going to have social and economic detriments on the communities that are going to lose the water. This is the letter that was put forward to the South Australian minister last year, where it was clearly stipulated. Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, was saying to the water minister, 'If you think you can deliver a further 450 gigalitres of water, you show us how you can do it without substantial economic and social detriment to those individuals and communities that are going to lose this water.'

The member here, who has put this motion into the chamber, has said, 'It's no good having this fight between irrigators and the environment, because we can't effectively have a system where we might have a dead river.' So effectively what she does is defer to the environment side of things. But we cannot have a system where we have dead communities. We cannot have dead communities, which is what we are able to see when we look at the northern review that was undertaken by an independent panel to go in and look at what's happened in the north of the Murray-Darling Basin now that we've had four or five years to let the plan move into its stage of taking water away from irrigation districts and returning water to the environment. Now when we go in and review those regions, quite simply the damage is shocking. There have been independent reviews around the Goulburn Valley that have shown the damage from taking water away from those regions is shocking. If the Labor Party and the Greens want to disregard that personal and human pain, hardship and social and economic damage that has been caused by this ungodly push for environmental flows then we have to at least have somebody in the chamber who's going to question these directions. Quite simply the value of the water that's already left the Goulburn Valley has been valued at around $500 million each and every year.

We have a situation also where the Labor Party in Victoria understand this. The Labor Party in Victoria are totally supportive of the coalition's stance here in Canberra. The Labor Party in Victoria understand that to take an additional 450 gigalitres of water and send it down for the environment is absolutely farcical and a joke. The other day in this parliament, I happened to mention the concept that you, Member for Kingston, want to spend this environmental water to keep the Murray mouth open. That's one of your environmental outcomes. In the last six months of the last year, we had record flows going down the Goulburn River and the Murray River. We had those record flows for six months. That water was pouring out over the barrages, pouring out to sea. Within one month of those record flows subsiding and returning to normal, do you know what happened? They had to get the dredging machines back out to keep the Murray mouth open. It is a non-natural phenomenon. You are trying to use environmental flows. If you had an ounce of practicality, you would know you can never do it.

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