Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Question without notice: Progress of Murray-Darling Basin reform

19 March 2013

Amanda Rishworth- Member for Kingston: Will the Minister update the House on the progress of Murray Darling Basin reform?

Tony Burke Minister for Water: Thanks very much speaker and I thank the Member for Kingston for the question. The member for Kingston has been a champion of Murray-Darling reform.

I'm pleased to say that the reforms that were signed into law last year are locked in as of today. The disallowance period expires today and after what has taken a century of a tug of war between states, what was required was to get a moment in time when politicians from around the country were willing to accept that the negotiation could only be won by the rivers themselves.

Whether it was the communities that were reliant on the rivers, producers who were reliant on the rivers or those who care about the environment seeing the degradation of the rivers. It was only ever going to be solved when the negotiation was won, not by any one state, but by the Murray-Darling Basin.

In doing that, that moment in time that was required began late last year when after the plan had been signed into law, this parliament voted in massive numbers to keep the plan in place.

And that moment concludes today where the disallowance period expiries and it is now clear that after inaction and challenge for more than a century, we have a situation where a century of degradation turns a corner and year after year after year we see the Murray-Darling restored to health.

There are many members of the community who deserve acknowledgement as part of a long running campaign.

Opposition interjecting

I have acknowledged members of the opposition before. You don't get overwhelming numbers in a parliament like this without a level of bipartisanship.

But I will also say that none of us deserve more credit than Henry Jones who is in the parliament today who's a fisherman from down in the Lower Lakes and Coorong down near Goolwa who has been a champion. We have Henry back there somewhere. There he is.

He has been a champion of Murray-Darling reform for a long time, the face of The Advertiser's campaign to save the Murray who deserves great credit for achieving what activists for a century had failed to.

For those traditional owners, the communities who were involved in the consultation and for the many people who have seen a challenge that has always been out of reach, it is important for us to acknowledge that this has been the parliament that has solved what no other parliament could.

And this has been the parliament that has guaranteed the Murray-Darling Basin is being restored to health and the degradation of the past is now a thing of the past.