The importance of the Murray Darling Basin Plan being implemented in full and on time to ensure the health of the river system, particularly in South Australia cannot be under-estimated.

As the Member for Barker I represent river communities from the New South Wales border right through to the lower lakes. As such, no one is more invested in ensuring the Plan is delivered.

The Murray Darling Basin is a vast and complex ecosystem stretching over an area that is larger than France and Germany put together, while being home to over two million people and supplying water to a million more.

The plan to ensure the future viability of this system, like the system itself is anything but simple.

It’s a complex agreement that relies on the cooperation of six different governments and hundreds of individual communities agreeing to a design based around scientific environmental and economic policy.

In 2012 the Basin Plan set default targets for how much water would need to be taken out of production and returned to the environment to ensure the future health of the river system.

In the Northern Basin, a default target was set at 390GL. This target was based on limited evidence of the time so a review was agreed to, to gather and analyse more information which would then be used to adjust this target to increase or decrease the amount of water returned to the Northern Basin.

The Northern Basin Review (the review) was undertaken by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) which is an independent expert agency responsible for the Basin Plan.

The review was completed in November 2016 and the (MDBA) determined that the target for the Northern Basin should be amended to 320GL. This determination was based on sound environmental and economic evidence gathered by the independent experts.

This determination was the basis for adoption of an Amendment Instrument – meaning amending the target for the Northern Basin from 390GL to 320GL of water recovery for the environment was law.

In short the Northern Basin Review was always a working part of the Plan and the resulting amendment was determined to save almost 200 jobs while still delivering the environmental benefits agreed under the Basin Plan. Environmental benefits that are vital for South Australia.

Until this point the Plan was on track. It would be implemented in full and on time resulting in more water for the health of the river system that would have flow on effects throughout the Basin system.

Until last Wednesday night.

Last Wednesday night a vote was held in the Senate that has put the entire Basin Plan at risk. The motion that was moved by Green’s Senator Sarah Hanson Young and supported by Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team was not based on the independent expert advice of the Murray Darling Basin Authority. It was based on the grab for political point scoring in the lead up to a South Australian State election that all three of these parties have a stake in.

The Greens, Labor and Xenophon will argue that they have disallowed the extra 70GL to be taken from upstream ultimately meaning 70GL more for SA.

This is complete nonsense.

The Northern Basin Review was a 4 year process of consultation and research, gathering the very best scientific fact based evidence ultimately showing that reducing the target in the Northern Basin from 390GL to 320GL would still deliver the environmental benefits agreed to by all governments under the Basin Plan.

It’s no wonder that NSW and Vic governments are threatening to pull out of the Basin Plan agreement. Any good representative government would do the same when playing politics trumps scientific analysis.

So we find ourselves in a situation where the entire Basin Plan is now in serious threat due to childish, politics being played by the Greens, Labor and the Xenophon Team and no one has more to lose than South Australia because of it.

To say I’m disappointed in my Parliamentary colleagues in the Senate is an understatement. The devastating impact that will be felt by our agricultural industry and the communities it sustains is gut retching and cannot be underestimated.

While my Federal Coalition colleagues work tirelessly to fix this mess, the Greens, Labor and Xenophon battle an election in a state they claim to ‘stand up’ for. I don’t know how they sleep at night.


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