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: Murray-Darling Basin Plan

27 June 2013

TONY ZAPPIA: MEMBER FOR MAKIN: My question is to the Minister for Water. Will the Minister update the House on the progress of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan? How will this help build a brighter and more sustainable future for the Basin?

TONY BURKE: MINISTER FOR WATER: Thanks very much and I want to thank the Member for Makin for the question. He has been a very strong advocate for the Murray River in particular and for the Murray-Darling Basin. This Government is very proud to have been the Government that finally developed a plan for the Murray-Darling Basin.

I remember at a community cabinet about five years ago, the Prime Minister referring to the Murray as having been over allocated to death. And yet we have a situation now where that same Murray-Darling Basin is being restored to health.

I’m very pleased as well that the question comes from the Member for Makin who played a significant role in the Windsor committee. The Windsor committee that was critical in making sure that we could get the support of this parliament on this issue.

It’s now the case that there are two further bits of information that im very pleased to report to the house on. Members would be aware that the final environmental outcomes that we wanted to achieve were those commensurate with 3200 gl of water. I'm pleased to report that we have now passed the half way mark on held water - 1638 gl now held, now able to be used to restore a system to health. This is where irrigation is done to help the environment not simply as a cost to the environment.

It's also the case that we have had to make sure that we get the states working on the implementation part of the strategy. There are major projects to happen up and down the basin as part of the implementation to make sure that we can maximise the environmental outcomes in some ways to find ways of bridging the gap through methods other than buy back as well.

I have reported previously to the house that Victoria, the ACT and our Government obviously, had signed up to the Intergovernmental agreement. I’m pleased to advise the house that shortly before question time, I received a phone call from the Premier of South Australia, and that South Australia is now also ready to sign onto the Intergovernmental agreement.

That means projects such as those for Chowilla to make sure that new regulators are put in place that when irrigation events for the environment happen there, the water is held on the floodplain for a longer period of time. We are restoring a broken system to health, turning a corner on what had been a century of degradation.

This is one of the proud reforms of this parliament of this government, something which has been worked on for a long time and something which the Member for Makin and the other South Australian members in particular on this side and those across the parliament who worked on the Windsor committee are able to say that this is an occasion where we have achieved something that had alluded our country for a century.