Question without notice – Murray-Darling Basin

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo): My question is the minister for water. The South Australian government has flagged a High Court challenge should the federal government not deliver the legislated 450 gigalitres of environmental water to South Australia by 2025. Minister, will the government deliver the 450 gigalitres, and, if so, please detail how?

Mr PITT (HinklerMinister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia): I thank the honourable member for her question, on what is a very important matter, not only for those who live in the Murray-Darling Basin but right across our nation. In answer to the member’s question, can I say to the member that on 4 September 2020 I announced a $269 million package of investments to put communities and jobs back at the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I would also say to the member that this has been a very long-running proposal from both sides of government. In fact, some $9 billion of the $13 billion has already been spent on the Murray-Darling Basin to support the implementation of the Basin Plan.

Going to the heart of the member’s question, quite simply, I don’t think it’s likely that there will be court action for something which is yet to happen. We have until 2024 to meet the requirements of the Basin Plan. We are committed to meeting those requirements. We will deliver on the commitments that we have made. I come from business. Four years is a very long time and $4 billion is an awful lot of money, and we want to ensure that we get that delivered into communities—driving jobs, driving investment and supporting the outcomes of the plan. So I say to the member that that’s a very good question, and I’m still in discussions with our South Australian counterparts, as we continue to talk to all members of the Murray-Darling community. But we will deliver on our commitment. We have made further commitments in terms of the Murray-Darling investment package and will continue to do what is necessary to strike the right balance between the environment, between business, between irrigators and between communities. But we are putting communities back at the heart of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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