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MDB review must be total: Speak Up

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August 10, 2017

THE Murray-Darling Basin Plan Speak Up campaign says if there is to be a judicial review into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan it must cover all the plan’s issues, not just a select few.

THE Murray-Darling Basin Plan Speak Up campaign says if there is to be a judicial review into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan it must cover all the plan’s issues, not just a select few.

Spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said it was imperative any inquiry look at ‘‘all aspects’’ where the plan can be improved.

She said there had been various calls for inquiries or a Royal Commission into the basin plan for nearly two years.

This week a group of South Australian Senators from various sides of politics joined forces to call for a judicial review into allegations of water theft and non-compliance aired by the ABC’s Four Corners.

Mrs Scoullar pointed out Senator Nick Xenophon made the comment that “the issue transcended politics”.

“The entire basin plan should transcend politics, but in the past decade that has not been the case,” she said.

“We have seen constant examples of political decisions and political point-scoring, at the expense of the most effective, balanced implementation of the basin plan and, as a consequence, at the expense of both the environment and our rural communities.

“Any judicial review must take a broad look at how we can improve the entire basin plan … not just be a narrow focus on issues of concern on the Darling.”

In the press conference calling for the judicial review, the Australian Conservatives’ Cory Bernardi stated: “If we are going to have any confidence that South Australia is getting a fair deal and a fair go, then we need to make sure that the entire agreement is being upheld, that the processes are upheld with integrity and transparency.”

Mrs Scoullar said this was not just about South Australia; if Mr Bernardi wants integrity and transparency then the plan as a whole needs to be addressed. At the moment a large part of the Murray Darling Basin is missing from the plan — the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth all need to be included to ensure all communities along the Murray River are getting a fair go.

‘‘In the Murray Valley we are seeing serious environmental issues being exacerbated by the present ‘just add water’ approach to the basin plan, such as river bank erosion, carp breeding events and native fish kills from hypoxic blackwater events.

‘‘Most importantly, it should thoroughly investigate whether or not the basin plan is being delivered in the most efficient and effective manner to achieve the balanced environmental, economic and social outcomes that were promised by politicians,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

It is most important the communities in the Murray Valley region do not become the sacrificial lambs for the problems on the Darling and South Australian politics.

She added any review should also address recommendations from the 2015 Senate Inquiry and demand there is a greater effort to ensure they are implemented.

‘‘We had a detailed Senate Inquiry that made more than 30 recommendations, but it seems because they were not politically palatable they have been ignored.

‘‘Speak Up fully agrees with Senator Xenophon – it’s time for the plan to transcend politics. The time has come to take necessary steps to deliver a plan that protects both our environment and our people.

‘‘This can only be achieved if politicians are prepared to put aside their political bias and work towards the common good,’’ Mrs Scoullar said. ‘‘Speak Up challenges the South Australian politicians calling for a review to lead this process.’’

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