SA-BEST demands State Government releases Murray-Darling Royal Commission findings as a “matter of urgency”

29 January 2019

SA-BEST is demanding the State Government releases the findings of the Murray-Darling Royal Commission as a “matter of urgency”.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC will hand his report to Governor Hieu Van Le today – with the SA Government saying it will make it public “at the earliest convenience”.

SA-BEST MLC and Environment and Water spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, said she anticipated the report will be damning in the way the Murray-Darling Basin plan is being implemented – and comes at a time when millions of fish are dying in the Darling River.

“It is imperative the major political parties stop using the Murray-Darling Basin as a political football who continually seek to score brownie points while the Basin continues to die a slow and painful death,” Connie said.

“This includes Premier Marshall – it is critical his government releases the findings of the Royal Commission as a matter of urgency,” she said.

“The Murray River is the lifeline of this state. Hundreds of thousands of South Australians depend on it for their livelihoods – both for their families and for many businesses.

“Upstream from our state, the Murray-Darling Basin is on life support – it is in crisis and needs urgent and immediate attention from both the federal and relevant state governments whose state boundaries take in this once powerful basin.

“It is no secret this State Liberal Government reluctantly oversaw the Commission, kicking and screaming – it did not want to co-operate with the Commissioner and his need for an extension.

“That decision undoubtedly seriously undermined the Commissioner’s ability to complete his hearings and report the way he wished.

“For that reason alone, the Marshall Government should hang its head in shame.”

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 had been 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 SA Government then declined a request by the Commissioner to extend his deadline.

“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 needed 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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