The Australian Greens note with disappointment that the Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee—a South Australian Senator—recommends the Murray-Darling Basin Commission of Inquiry Bill 2019 (Bill) not be passed.
The Murray-Darling Basin continues to show signs of serious ill-health, despite most of the $13 billion allocated for the Plan having been spent. Big corporate irrigators have been prioritised ahead of the River, clean drinking water, family farms and the environment.
The South Australian Royal Commission which reported in January 2019, found serious problems with the development and implementation of the Basin Plan. However, the Commission was limited in its scope by the lack of co-operation from the other Basin States and the Commonwealth which stopped its department and agencies from appearing. Only a Federal Commission will be able to hold those responsible to account. There have been serious allegations and actual instances of fraud and misconduct in relation to the Plan. Scientists, including those who made a submission to this inquiry, have repeatedly warned that the Plan does not meet environmental requirements that the River system needs to be sustainable. The SA Royal Commission even called into question the legalities of the Plan itself. The summer of 2019 saw mass native fish deaths throughout the Basin while parts of the Basin are rapidly running out of water.
The Murray-Darling Basin is in crisis and our foodbowl is at risk. The Water Minister and the Environment Minister have simply thrown their hands in the air and said there is nothing they can do because they can't make it rain. To top off their wilful ignorance, the Water Minister who is responsible for managing the Murray-Darling, has said he doesn't know if climate change is man-made.
A Federal Commission of Inquiry is the only way to get to the bottom of the misconduct, get the Plan back on track and ensure a healthy river system for future generations.
Key stakeholders who made submissions in support of this Bill, have demonstrated the urgent need for transparency and better analysis of Basin water reforms.
Professor Quentin Grafton and Professor John Williams from the Australian National University agreed that there is an 'urgent need for much greater transparency, improved and more accessible data, and much better analysis, in relation to Basin water reforms'.
The Liberal-Nationals have had six years in government and instead of implementing the Plan they've completely messed it up. Now they want to deny family farms, River communities, Traditional Owners and the environment a Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of what's gone so wrong. Waving the white flag and praying for rain will not fix the Murray‑Darling. Farmers and River communities have their backs against the wall and it's time this government stepped up and did something to help.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Bill be passed.