The Murray-Darling river system is the lifeblood of rural and regional communities across South Australia, from Renmark and Loxton to the Murray Mouth.
The Water Act, established by the Howard Government in 2007, combined with the Murray Darling Basin Plan, constructed by the ALP in 2012, is designed to ensure that the Murray-Darling is a sustainable resource for future generations. In the face of climate change, with its ever-more variable and extreme weather, these intergovernmental water sharing and management agreements have never been so important.
These management plans are not perfect. I believe too much water is probably being taken from the system upstream for irrigation, at the expense of environmental flows downstream.
But disintegration of the Plan would be a disaster for our regional communities, our irrigators, farmers and families who rely on the system and for the river itself. Scrapping the Plan altogether is simply too risky for SA.
That is why I take particular care when voting on issues on the Murray-Darling, carefully weighing up the reasons and evidence to form my position. We should avoid alarmist rhetoric and extremist views, because management of the Murray-Darling is a complex and difficult task.
My approach in the Senate has been to support the Murray Darling Basin Plan, whilst also pushing for improved standards of transparency and accountability. This considered and responsible approach is evident in my voting record on the Murray-Darling, which shows that I will not risk the Plan falling-apart even though I felt that there are clear areas - such as more accurate and transparent water accounting - which need to be improved.
I have advocated for improvements to the Plan through tenacious questioning of the Murray Darling Basin Authority during Senate Estimates. Also by gaining agreement in the Senate for a motion I put forward, calling on the Government to implement all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission and Productivity Commission. I have also pushed for the structural separation of the Murray Darling Basin Authority into a regulator and agency to reduce the intensifying conflict of interests. This gained support from the ALP, now it is time for the Government to act.
Actions So Far
- SA will be the loser if we blow up the Murray Basin plan
- Warnings that Murray-Darling Basin Plan is set for failure without overhaul