DROP THE DUD DEAL
Monday, 4th February, 2019
By Michael Murphy
Environmental groups are ramping up pressure on state and federal governments to scrap a deal that puts money before the health of the Murray-Darling river system.
Conservation SA has written to SA Water Minister David Speirs calling on him to re-open negotiations with the other states to revoke the 450GL ‘upwater’ conditions accepted at the December Murray-Darling ministers meeting.
A chorus of prominent scientific and environmental experts have all said the deal struck in December would guarantee the water would never be delivered.
This deal was singled out for criticism in the final report of the SA Murray-Darling Royal Commission.
The environmental water would only be delivered providing it meets certain criteria, including a ‘socio-economic test’.
“It is not cynical to take the view that these far more onerous and expansive criteria signal the death of any reasonable prospects of recovering probably any of the extra 450GL of so-called upwater,” Commissioner Bret Walker SC wrote in his report.
“It is little wonder that the former Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Mr David Papps, told the Commission that: ‘I would put my house on it that there won’t be 450 gigalitres’.”
Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins yesterday said the deal should be revoked.
“History clearly shows that unless South Australians shout and scream on behalf of the river, we will get screwed over by upstream states.
“The recent fish kills in the Lower Darling are a clear indication that the river system is in crisis.
“We clearly now have no choice but to gear up for yet another fight,” he said.
Broken Hill’s former federal member Sussan Ley made her views about the Murray-Darling Royal Commission known at the weekend, completely dismissing it.
“Never forget, this commission of inquiry was created by the previous South Australian Labor Government as a political exercise,” the Liberal Party MP said.
“The outcome leaves me even more convinced this is all it was ever intended to be.
“Commissioner Walker’s report demonstrates incredible bias and a subjective lack of understanding of our part of the Murray Darling Basin and what the Basin Plan is meant to achieve.
“That is, to restore and maintain a healthy balance between the environment and agricultural production.”
Meanwhile, in response to the ecological disaster played out in the Darling River this summer, Greenpeace Australia Pacific has launched a campaign against the New South Wales Government at the next election.
“We can’t let Premier Berejiklian get away with shocking mismanagement of the Murray Darling River any longer,” Greenpeace wrote on its fundraising website.
If the environmental activists raise enough money, they promise to mount a massive campaign before the NSW State Election “to show Premier Berejiklian trashing our environment and abandoning climate action will cost votes”.