Chamber Senate on 7/02/2018 Item QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS – Murray-Darling Basin Speaker :Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah
Hanson Young Senate Speech: The questions that I put to the minister went right to the heart of what on earth is going on inside the management of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
We know that in 2012, when this plan was signed off by all of the states involved, it was agreed that in order to put our river on a sustainable footing—to ensure that we had enough water to keep the river alive and ensure that we had a river that all users and future generations could rely on—we had to do something drastic to change business as usual. That meant putting more money on the table to buy water to return to the river, to ensure we had enough water to give the river a fighting chance.
Fast-forward five years and we’ve seen over $6 billion spent out of a fund of close to $13 billion, yet environmental flows are lower than previously. There is no excuse for the amount of money that has been spent through this process, yet we are not seeing the environmental returns. Earlier this week, we know, the Murray-Darling Basin Declaration was released by a number of eminent expert scientists and economists around Australia, who called for urgent action in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They have called out what they see as sheer mismanagement, corruption and waste of taxpayers’ dollars. The money being spent to return water to the river is just not delivering what was promised.
The questions I put to the minister were simply dismissed out of hand. There was very little substance coming back from the minister. I’m not sure whether he isn’t across his brief or whether he just doesn’t care. The truth is that billions and billions of Australian taxpayers’ dollars have been spent on water that’s meant to be returned to the environment. The water is not there, but the money’s gone. Where has it gone? It’s gone into the pockets of big, greedy corporate irrigators upstream. That’s where it’s gone. They’ve had their hands out asking the taxpayer to fund their on-farm operations, to feather their big irrigation nests. Meanwhile, smaller players—the small family farms and the smaller irrigators—have very little to share, and, of course, the environment and the river are suffering.
Those big corporate interests are running the show. We know they’ve asked the federal government to amend the plan, saying: ‘We want more water. We want more money and more water.’ We have The Nationals running the show over in the coalition, saying, ‘Sure, have as much as you want.’ The big corporate irrigators are ripping off taxpayers and the environment. The Greens are not going to stand for it. We’re not going to stand here and let that happen. We will fight every day to make sure taxpayers get their money’s worth and the environment gets the water that it needs.
I tell you what: there are no jobs on a dead river. Coming from South Australia and living at the bottom end of the system, we know only too well what happens when the Murray-Darling Basin is suffering, when there’s not enough water in the river. Ten years ago, when I was first elected to this place, when the Lower Lakes were a salt pan, when the salinity levels were so—
A government senator interjecting—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There are interjections from some National senator over here who, of course, is protecting the interests of big corporate irrigators at the expense of smaller farmers and downstream communities. The Nationals are running a protection racket for the big corporate irrigators and big corporate cotton growers while the river dies and the rest of the community suffers. (Time expired)
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