How our rivers are being managed is a major election issue. From massive fish kills and water theft, to dodgy deals and the South Australian Royal Commission findings of ‘gross negligence’, voters are rightly concerned.
So how are the major political parties responding to the crisis on the Murray-Darling? What is their view of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan? And what policies are they taking to the election?
See our brief one-sentence assessment below, and scroll down for a more detailed point-by-point analysis.
The Greens policy has the potential for big improvements for rivers.
The Labor Party have committed to fixing the most shocking failures that have emerged since they were last in charge, which is welcome but not enough.
The Liberals seem to be offering little more than continuing the Basin’s current downward trajectory.
The Greens have long been calling for improvements to the Basin Plan to stop the Murray-Darling from being bled dry. Their election plan commits to the following:
Our comment: The South Australian Royal Commission (SARC) did a great job of exposing the problems with the Basin Plan and identifying solutions, but was blocked from fully investigating corruption and maladministration by the Morrison government. A national inquiry would likely reveal more.
Our comment: This is required by the federal Water Act 2007.
Our comment: It is ridiculous that the Basin Plan does not already consider this.
Our comment: Further buybacks, from willing sellers, are essential to achieving the objectives of the Basin Plan.
The Labor party’s commitments on addressing the crisis in the Murray-Darling are:
Our comment: These are all very welcome and important commitments.
Our comment: A broader inquiry is needed rather than this narrow, partisan focus on what went on under Barnaby Joyce.
Our comment: This is a good idea and new nature laws will help too.
Our comment: The lack of sufficient data is a real problem – we can’t fix our rivers if we don’t know where the water is flowing and how the plants, animals and wetlands are faring.
Our comment: A much-needed inclusion in any sensible water management plan.
The Liberals are making only a single commitment on the Murray-Darling, which is included as part of their broader agriculture policy:
Our comment: While David Littleproud has brought a more balanced approach to the Basin Plan as Minister, compared to his predecessor Barnaby Joyce, the vagueness of the Coalition’s commitment is concerning. Implementing the Basin Plan “in full and on time” is exactly what they claim they’ve been doing for six years, so it’s unclear what they would do to improve the situation.
For more details about the other nature and climate policies of the major parties, check out the scorecard from our friends at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
*This analysis was based on the publicly available policy announcements listed on the party websites.