Federal Government must cease Murray-Darling Basin payments to NSW and commence water buybacks

18 December 2019

In response to the NSW Government's announcement that it will not contribute to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s 450GL efficiency measures or submit its Water Resource Plans in the required timeframe, Centre Alliance is calling on the Federal Government to, as an initial step, cease all Basin Plan payments to NSW immediately and to commence water buybacks in NSW starting in 2020. 

Further sanctions may also be necessary if the NSW Government fails to recommit to the Plan in full.

“NSW cannot enjoy the benefits of the Plan during the good times and then stop complying with the plan when the going gets tough,” said Centre Alliance Environmental spokesperson, Senator Rex Patrick. “All states must work together.”

“The Federal Government must use as much coercive power as necessary to force NSW to meet the commitments it has agreed to."

SA Water Minister David Speirs has briefed Centre Alliance on the outcomes of yesterday's ministerial council discussions and asked for Centre Alliance's support in the Federal Parliament.

“We stand beside Minister Speirs in his call for all states to work together to meet the Basin Plan commitments,” said Rebekha Sharkie MP, Member for Mayo. “As a party, Centre Alliance will apply whatever pressure is necessary to encourage the Federal Government to get NSW to meets its obligations.”

“And until they do, as an initial response, the Federal Government must stop all Murray-Darling related funding to NSW immediately and commence water buybacks in NSW in the new year”.

The Murray-Darling is a core Centre Alliance platform. The party’s resolve in relation to ensuring the health and vitality of the river should not be underestimated.

“I can’t believe NSW is behaving in this way,” said Senator Patrick. “Less than three years ago it was NSW that was found complicit in permitting rorting and water theft from the river. The state of the Darling River is almost exclusively NSW’s fault as were the Menindee fish kills this time last year. And now we see this seriously foolish move.”

“Centre Alliance will discuss these most recent developments with the SA State Government and relevant Federal ministers over the coming days”, said Senator Patrick. “And the Prime Minister might just need to cut his holiday short."

Centre Alliance has a bill before the Senate seeking to alter the Constitution so that the Federal Parliament has direct powers over water resources that cross a state boundary (e.g. the Murray-Darling and the Great Artesian Basin). National water systems must be managed at a national level. The bill might ultimately be the resolution to the pending NSW initiated river crisis.

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