Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission report a “damning indictment” of Federal and SA governments: SA-BEST

31 January 2019

SA-BEST today described the findings of the Murray-Darling Royal Commission a “damning indictment” on the Federal and State governments.

SA-BEST MLC and Environment and Water spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, demanded Premier Steven Marshall get to Canberra as soon as possible to “take up the fight of every South Australian” face to face with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

The scathing report – released today by the SA Government – demands a complete overhaul of the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC alleged federal officials committed maladministration by making decisions on environment flows allocations based on politics rather than science.

Commissioner Walker found: “Politics rather than science ultimately drove ... the recovery figure of 2750GL. This was not a scientific determination, but one made by senior management and the board of the MDBA. It is an unlawful approach. It is maladministration.”

He also said: “The Basin environment must not be subject to an uncontrolled experiment.”

Commissioner Walker went further: “The Murray Darling Basin Authority must not mark its own work.”

The State Government was also singled out by the Commissioner – accused of bowing to pressure from the eastern states and the Commonwealth over its decision to support a proposal by the New South Wales and Victorian governments “for the approval of efficiency measures to recover 450 GL of upwater.”

Commissioner Walker said: “The South Australian Government’s agreement to changes to the socio-economic criteria for efficiency measures should not merely be described as ill-advised. It is nothing short of a capitulation to the interests of the current Commonwealth Government, and those of Victoria and New South Wales.”

Connie said: “Commissioner Walker’s report is a damning indictment on the State Liberal Government, and as expected, the Federal Government and the upstream states that pillage the entire Murray Darling Basin system.

“It is now abundantly clear for all the see why the Marshall Government was kicking and screaming during the entire Commission proceedings - it did not want to co-operate with the Commissioner from the get go,” she said.

“The Marshall Government should hang its head in shame.

“If I was Steven Marshall, I would be on the next available flight to Canberra to take up the fight of all South Australians with the Prime Minister.

“Surely that’s the least he can do to try to get the mud off his face.”

The State Government-funded Murray-Darling Royal Commission was set up by the former Weatherill Labor Government to investigate the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

It followed claims of upstream water theft and rorting.

Connie said the Commission was plagued by controversy “virtually since day one” with the Federal Government mounting a High Court bid to prevent it and Murray Darling Basin Authority staff giving evidence.

“The findings of this Commission will be a major federal election issue,” Connie said.

“Four states are impacted by the Murray-Darling Basin and the political party with the intestinal fortitude to make the tough and sustained decisions that are recommended by Commissioner Walker will go a long way towards election victory,” she said.

“On the back of this report, Premer Steven Marshall, and key current Federal Cabinet Ministers from SA - including Christopher Pyne, Simon Birmingham, as well as Senator Ann Ruston - must put immediate pressure on the Prime Minister and Federal Water and Agricultural Resources Minister, David Littleproud, to do whatever it takes to begin the process of getting the Basin healthy again.

“With former Senator Nick Xenophon and Rebekha Sharkie fighting hard in Canberra, South Australia won crucial investment to sustain the Plan for the long term.

“SA-BEST will continue to work closely with our Centre Alliance Federal colleagues - including Senators Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick and Rebekha – with whoever wins this year’s Federal election to ensure SA has a strong and powerful voice on this matter.

“The livelihoods of all South Australians – and millions of Australians – are reliant of the long-term sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin.

“The political rhetoric needs to stop – once and for all!”

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