Water Amendment (Review
Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015
Senate Inquiry into the Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other
Measures) Bill 2015 received 15 written submissions. A number of these
submissions raised serious concerns regarding some of the proposed changes to
the Water Act outlined in this Bill.
the evidence provided by these experts the Chair’s report has recommended that
the Bill be passed without any amendments addressing these concerns. The
Australian Greens believe that this response is not sufficient and provide two
recommendations that differ from the committee’s report.
Issue One – Expanding
the function of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to include
indicated in the Chair’s report the primary issue of concern to submitters was
water trading by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) and the
related amendments proposed under Item 27 (Section 106) of the bill.
changes would allow trade revenue to be used for 'environmental activities'. This
raises two primary concerns:
use of trade revenue for funding environmental programs could result in
cost-shifting whereby CEWH’s funds are used to subsidise environmental programs
that should be funded from other sources.
term 'environmental activities' is vague and does not outline how an objective
assessment would be made to determine whether an environmental activity
actually improves the CEWH’s ability to meet the objectives of the
environmental watering plan.
safeguards are in place for these changes (e.g. Section 106(5) stating that the
disposal of water must not impact on the SDLs in the catchment), however they
do not directly address the above concerns. The current legislation limits the
CEWH to only disposing of water which is not currently required to meet the objectives
of the environmental watering plan or any applicable environmental water
schedules and would otherwise be forfeited. This structure has provided
positive outcomes for the health of the Murray Darling Basin and the Bills
Digest notes that this limitation was imposed to ensure that the CEWH operates
to meet environmental objectives.
this Bill is amended to remove the amendment under Item 27 which would allow
trade revenue to be used on 'environmental activities'.
Issue Two – Review and
50 of the Water Act 2007 outlines that ten-yearly reviews of the Basin
Plan must be undertaken by the Murray Darling Basin Authority. If the Water
Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 is adopted
in its current form there would be no review of the Basin Plan for about 14
years. This is particularly concerning as the current Murray Darling Basin Plan
does not account for any changes in water flows due to climate change and the
impact this would have on the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs). Scientific
literature predicts that there will be substantial changes to Australia’s
weather due to climate change. If a prolonged drought were to occur before the
proposed review of the Basin Plan in 2026 this could have a substantial impact
on the health of the Murray Darling system as the current plan does not account
for climate change.
year Professor R. Quentin Grafton, Professor John Williams and Associate
Professor Jamie Pittock published an article in the academic journal Water.
These three highly regarded water scientists outlined that failing to use
current scientific knowledge on climate change to model the Basin Plan’s SDLs,
or provisions for systematic adjustment into the future "significantly
increases the risks to the health of the river systems". Failing to
account for climate change in the SDLs also "increases the uncertainty to
communities, who now have no clear policy setting or process to manage the
anticipated changes in water availability into the future".
the Sustainable Diversion Limits in the Murray Darling Basin Plan are reviewed
in 2017 to determine if they adequately account for the projected impacts of
Australian Greens do not support the Bill in its current form. The Australian
Greens recommend that this Bill only be passed with amendments that address the
two recommendations outlined in this report.
Greens Senator for South Australia
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