Feb 14, 2023 | Media Releases, Media Releases 2023

The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has highlighted in its Basin Plan report card[1] released today that the Commonwealth Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has made minimal progress since taking over the reins.

When appointed, Minister Plibersek said she would deliver the Basin Plan in full and on time, yet the MDBA report says there has been ‘… only minor movement in the past 6 months.’

Shadow Water Minister, Senator Davey, said she was not surprised by the MDBA’s assessment that ‘… important elements (were) at risk or unlikely to be achieved by the June 2024 deadline.’

“When Labor took power nine months ago, Basin State Governments, including the South Australian Minister, were calling for an urgent MINCO meeting to be held to ensure projects could be delivered,” Senator Davey said.  

“It took six months before Minister Plibersek got around to hold a MINCO meeting where the only agreement reached was to have another MINCO meeting in 2023.

“Despite all the rhetoric coming out of this Government, the MDBA has blown the whistle on a Minister and a Government who have repeatedly refused to meet with stakeholders to develop a way forward,” Senator Davey said.

Sen. Davey pointed to the MINCO communique which said they had agreed to ‘development of a strategy, focussing on a first step of bridging the gap is under development and will be released for public consultation by the end of 2022 …’.

“In October’s Budget Estimates, we learned the Department was preparing to re-enter the water market to buyback 46GL to bridge the gap, but we have heard no more about that,” Senator Davey said.

“Stakeholders were told a water recovery strategy would be released by Christmas, but we are still waiting on Minister Plibersek to release the plan on how the Government will deal with water recovery shortfalls.

“We know Minister Plibersek was warned last year by her department that projects would be in jeopardy by October last if the Government failed to get agreement on changing the legislated timeframes.

“The MDBA report is the latest in a long line of reports making the point that timelines are unlikely to be met, however with no MINCO decisions being made since Labor came to power nine months ago, it is now impossible for the projects to go through business case, environmental approval process and construction by the middle of next year.

“It begs the question whether the Commonwealth is knowingly signing off on contracts and milestones which it cannot meet? Are they still paying the States for projects that will not be delivered? What advice has been or is being provided to successive Ministers about the legality of continuing to fund projects it knows it cannot deliver.

“The Coalition has offered it’s bipartisan support to find a way through these issues but has had no response from the Minister to date,” Senator Davey said.

[1] Basin Plan report card paints clearer picture as 2024 deadline nears | Murray-Darling Basin Authority (