New Water Minister Tanya Plibersek started the day calling for unity of purpose and finished it by picking a fight with her State Labor colleagues at her Press Club speech today.
Senator Davey said all State Water Ministers – Labor and Coalition – agreed to a clear set of assessment criteria yet Minister Plibersek is only concerned about targets and timelines.
“Minister Plibersek has now said delivering the 450G by 2024 would be nearly impossible. I say delivering it without negative social and economic impacts is nearly impossible.
“Why does it matter?
“The social and economic neutrality provision were put in place by Labor at the time of writing the Basin Plan, yet they conveniently spent 9 years in opposition ignoring the complexities and difficulties to deliver both it and other important aspects such as constraints management strategy,” Senator Davey said.
“State Governments recognise this. The Victorian Labor Government has consistently made it clear the additional 450 gigalitres could not be recovered without major social and impacts.
“The fact is the majority of the plan has been delivered. 2,100 GL has been transferred to the environment along with improved management of environmental water flows.
“In places like the Macquarie Marshes following good rains over the past two years, we have seen the largest bird breeding event since counting began there in 1983 with over 150,000 birds breeding the Marshes.
“As Minister’s own Department pointed out in a media release just six days ago ‘it’s been a big year for waterbirds, with the most widespread breeding across the Murray-Darling Basin in more than 20 years.’
“I am frustrated and disappointed that the new Minister is only focusing on one part of a complex plan and ignoring the lessons learned and the outcomes being achieved,” Senator Davey said.
It’s no secret that the deadlines for some of the final parts of the plan will be difficult. The Covid pandemic couple with ambitious timeframes and some very poor assumptions in the original constraints management strategy have meant I have long supported working with the states to extend deadlines where appropriate.
Senator Davey said proposed constraints measures, integral to meeting the environmental goals in the basin plan, haven’t got community support.
“For example – one project if implemented could result in the Darling Anabranch, wetlands and lakes being cut off from the lower Darling River and it has been comprehensively rejected by communities still reeling from the massive fish kills in 2019.
“The people of the MDB were promised when the Basin Plan was gazetted that both ‘adaptive management’ and ‘localism’ had been ‘hard wired into the Basin Plan’s DNA,’” Senator Davey said.
“People took Labor at their word then and would expect that adaptation following 10 years of implementation and learning.
“We have to be realistic about what can be achieved and continue to work with Basin communities to improve environmental outcomes.
“And if we can’t meet the deadlines, work with the States to extend them,” Senator Davey said.