Reports | 3rd Aug, 2023

Debasing the Basin Plan

Victoria’s pivotal role undermining Australia’s effort to save the Murray-Darling

Since the Murray-Darling Ba­sin Plan was first implemented in 2012, the Victorian government has consistently preferred to ‘go it alone’ on water policy and prioritised costly and ineffective efficiency projects resulting in the inability of the Plan to meet its water targets.

Even after the federal government has warned of a significant delay to the Basin Plan, raising concerns not enough water would be recovered ahead of a future drought, the Andrews Government continues to oppose water buybacks from willing sellers, the more economically and environmentally effective way to return water to our rivers.

The report highlights five ways that successive Victorian governments have undermined national water policy over the last 16 years:

  • Holding the Commonwealth to ransom over the original Water Act
  • Proposing irrigation upgrade schemes as an alternative to genuine water recovery
  • Reducing the amount of environmental water in the Basin Plan
  • Instigating an ‘offsets’ scheme to further reduce environmental water
  • Pushing for an unworkable socio-economic test, making it impossible to recover the remaining 450 GL of water for the environment

From John Howard to the Royal Commission, political leaders and legal experts have warned that all Basin governments must cooperate to manage the water in the Murray-Darling sustainably. This is particularly crucial as climate change worsens and there is increased risk of prolonged and severe drought. Victoria has played a significant role in undermining past attempts to recover water to benefit Australia’s largest and most important river system. Now is the time for the Andrews Government to change tack and make a more positive contribution to national water policy, before it’s too late.