Why can’t we have informed, balanced and accurate political commentary around water policy?
It is a question being asked by the community-based Speak Up Campaign, as it continues to express concerns that rural communities and their people are being treated as mere pawns in a political game.
Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar said it was disappointing that we continue to have false information being pedalled, instead of informed and intelligent dialogue to achieve best results for our nation’s environment and agriculture.
She has especially called on new Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to continue her tours of the Murray-Darling Basin and get a more balanced perspective on the complexities surrounding the Basin Plan.
“At this point, Ms Plibersek continues to highlight the fact that only two of the 450 gigalitres of what is termed ‘upwater’ have been recovered, and is making it sound like virtually nothing has been done to achieve water recovery targets over the past decade.
“This is totally incorrect, and while I appreciate that this is political rhetoric to try and score points against the Coalition, a little more accuracy and informed commentary would be of greater benefit to ongoing implementation of the Basin Plan and, in fact, our nation and its environment,” Mrs Scoullar said.
Mrs Scoullar pointed out that the true water recovery figure was more than 2,000 gigalitres, and that the 450GL figure to which Ms Plibersek continually refers was a last minute addition to the Basin Plan, demanded by South Australia before it would sign up to the plan. It was agreed at the time, and has since been reaffirmed, that it can only be recovered if strict social and economic criteria are met.
She said Ms Plibersek has stated she “had been working collaboratively with South Australian Environment Minister Susan Close about how they could together reach the (450GL) target”.
“In southern New South Wales and northern Victoria we are eagerly awaiting the opportunity for Ms Plibersek to show us this same level of collaboration,” Mrs Scoullar said.
hile the Minister has indicated she will visit our region and keeps talking about collaboration, we have not yet seen any evidence of this. All we hear is her constant reference to ‘only two of 450 gigalitres have been recovered’.
“This raises concern, because we believe there are only two reasons behind continually promoting this false information. Either the Minister knows the figure does not present the true picture of water recovery, but uses it regardless for political point scoring. Or her knowledge of the Basin Plan is so limited that this is what she has been told and doesn’t know any better.
“Whatever the reason, it is past time that Ms Plibersek improved her understanding around a range of issues including water recovery targets, the environmental degradation from excessive environmental flows, constraints limitations, and the importance of prioritising effective water management rather than solely concentrating on poorly modelled volumes.
“While we have come to expect a proliferation of false and misleading commentary from South Australia, including its Senate representatives, we would hope a federal Water Minister would ensure they had a firm grasp on all the issues before joining this echo chamber.
“Unfortunately, that’s not what we are seeing to this point. It was a Labor Government that initially promised a fair and flexible Basin Plan, and our communities would welcome a more genuine attempt to deliver on that commitment,” Mrs Scoullar said.