Premier Marshall Fails SA With His Response to the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission

27 September 2019

"Premier Marshall has utterly failed all South Australians in his response to the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commissioner’s report handed down in January of this year," said Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick.

"The media release that accompanied the Government’s response would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud. It’s written to gloss over a most disappointing response by the Marshall Government to what was a very comprehensive and well thought through report by the Commissioner."

“The Murray-Darling is in crisis. Whilst the river is suffering from drought, there's absolutely no question that it's also suffering from grievous mismanagement and especially over extraction of water. Over extraction of water was the issue at the core of the Commissioner’s report and the Government has simply chosen to ignore it using language from Federal Water Resource Minister David Littleproud's playbook."

The Commissioner’s first recommendation was that new determinations of the Environmentally Sustainable Levels of Take and the Sustainable Diversions Limits (effectively how much water can safely be taken from the river) "should be carried out promptly". The SA Government has responded "changes to either the Water Act or the Basin Plan before the Basin Review in 2026 are not supported".

"By 2026 the river will have suffered irreparable harm and our nation’s food bowl will be in jeopardy. Premier Marshall is wilfully blind to the gravity of the situation and the likely consequences," said Senator Patrick.

The Commissioner recommended that "additional water needed to be purchased by Government to be held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder". The SA Government has responded with the Eastern States line that "South Australia does not support additional buy-backs".

The Commissioner was very critical of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s failure to accept CSIRO advice to include "mechanisms in the plan for ongoing adjustments to be made (if necessary) as a result of continued climatic change and further scientific knowledge in the area". South Australia has rejected this proposition stating that it supports a climate change review that would in turn support the Basin Plan review in 2026.

"The response by the South Australian Government is incomprehensible," said Senator Patrick.

"It's unbelievable that Premier Marshall wants status quo. He seems oblivious to what’s happening on the Darling, to the trouble brewing on the Murrumbidgee with big irrigators moving in, and to the politically explosive situation in the Southern Riverina where farmers are going to wall as they watch water flow past their properties to meet the Plan’s obligations to South Australia because the Northern Basin no longer contributes water to the Murray."

Rebekha Sharkie, Member for Mayo, is frustrated by the South Australian Government’s response as well.

"Minister Littleproud represents the Electorate of Maranoa which encompasses the cotton towns of St George, Dirrumbandi, Goondiwindi and Dalby. He’s the Member for big cotton irrigators. Premier Marshall should not be adopting his rhetoric which is the antithesis of what’s good for the Murray and what’s good for SA," said Ms Sharkie. "The South Australian Government’s status quo approach will be harmful to my electorate, the electorate of Barker and indeed all Murray waters users in SA."

"What's deeply disturbing here is that the South Australian Government, in its response, is ignoring the science for the sake of political expediency," said Ms Sharkie

"This response is Steven Marshall at his best," said Senator Patrick, "which is never a very inspiring thing. Once again his government is a triumph of the lowest expectations."


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