Ambiguity over how much water is being taken from the Murray-Darling

March 29, 2018

The Murray Darling Basin Plan was drawn up in 2012 after a long period of discussion and investigation in response to the 'Millennium Drought' and concerns about water security and river health.  Australian Conservatives founder, South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, supports that plan.

Jacqui Merckenschlager writes in the April edition of Mannum Mag: "We know that the plan is a compromise between the needs of the environment and the wants of economics in the four states, a compromise which barely sustained the health of our River system..."

Merckenshlager goes on: "The Commonwealth Government “holds” the water and is supposed to manage the river for all of Australia. However, we know that big business often gets what it wants. The States (under the Constitution) are the managers of the river within their borders."

"They are responsible for licensing. Any rorting of the system should be acted upon by them. Remember the article in ‘The Standard’ July 2017 which reported on the ABC’s exposure of rorting by some cotton growers in NW NSW? Billions of litres of water were extracted from the Darling River illegally through huge pumps which had their meters tampered with illegally."

"And (a NSW bureaucrat) was taped in phone calls he made with irrigators, colluding in a cover-up. Journalist Besser says, 'When we started this story, I thought it was going to be about the fight over how much water was allocated to the environment and how much to the irrigators. But what we discovered is that no-one really knows how much water is being taken from the river.'"

"...An incredible example of cheating was undertaken by Websters, Australia’s largest owner of water entitlements … Barnaby Joyce’s mates. In a deal negotiated in 2016/17 when Barnaby was Federal Minister for Water, June Webster (Tandou Farm on the Darling) arranged the sale of their 21,900 megalitres water licence under the “buy back” scheme. Websters were paid $78 million from the Federal Government purse – three-times the going value for water licences in the Lower Darling at that time and twice the value recommended by the Federal Government’s advisers AND the deal allowed Websters to grow another cotton crop in 2017/18 using scarce Darling water AFTER the sale of the licence. That crop should net them another $35 million."

"They say they haven’t cheated, as this was negotiated to compensate them in part for lost future earnings."

You can find the full article on page 16 of the Mannum Mag, click here.

The Australian Conservatives successfully voted to defeat a move by the Turnbull Government to hand over an extra 70 billion litres of water (earmarked for “the environment”) in the northern Murray-Darling Basin, despite major concerns about big corporate irrigators' extractions and political entanglements.

To hear why Senator Bernardi decided to block the handover of 70 gigalitres of water to corporate irrigators, click the box below:

To see Senator Bernardi's address to the Senate on the subject, click the box below:

Senator Bernardi has also questioned why the Coalition government or Murray Darling Basin Authority failed to let the Senate know (during the disallowance debate) of the MDBA's interim finding (outlined in this 4 March Sydney Morning-Herald report) that water over-extraction in the Northern Basin was a key reason for the Darling River's ailing health.

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