Premier Jay Weatherill has issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: recommit to the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full or face the full force of a reinvigorated Fight for the Murray campaign.
The Federal Government backing out of this deal is a fundamental breach of trust.
The Premier says the Prime Minister must recommit to delivering all of the additional 450GL of water back to the system.
A reinvigorated Fight for the Murray would involve all South Australians, as it did in 2012 when our State secured 3200GL for the Murray.
In a letter last week to State Water Minister Ian Hunter, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce wrote:
"If it was genuinely possible to put an additional 450GL down the river without hurting people, then none of us would have a problem with it. The reality is that it will."
The Fight for the Murray campaign commenced in 2012 and was successful in ensuring 3200GL of water would be returned to the River Murray – the baseline volume of water needed to keep the system alive as determined by detailed CSIRO science.
This water is needed to keep the Murray mouth open, reduce salinity in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, increase flows to the Coorong and allow for an increase in floodplain watering across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
The previous Fight for the Murray campaign enlisted prominent champions of the river as ambassadors to the cause, and a flotilla of vessels traversed the river, stopping by river towns and communities to engage and rally support.
The State’s efforts were justified and rewarded when the plan was agreed by all basin state ministers, and legislated in late 2012.
The Commonwealth Government have more than $1.7 billion set aside to fund projects to deliver this crucial last 450GL of water for the environment – and Mr Joyce has his eye on that money to spend on ‘other projects’.
Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill
The Prime Minister needs to pull his Deputy in to line and ensure he does not dud us on the Murray Darling Basin Agreement.
We were given reassurance before the Federal Election that the Agreement would be delivered in full.
Close enough is not good enough – the crucial last 450GL must be delivered, as promised – the Federal Government cannot just cut and run on one of the nation’s most important agreements.
The future of the Murray Darling Basin is crucial for all Australians, and governments signed up to the Plan in good faith - which is now being eroded by Barnaby Joyce.
Minister Joyce has made it clear he has no concern for the health of the river downstream of the eastern states.
He has previously told South Australian irrigators to go where the water is – that is not the attitude that we should expect from a Federal Minister in charge of such an important resource.