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4 September 2020


"The Coalition Government's decision to rule out water buybacks for the Murray-Darling River is a major setback for the environment, non-irrigation stakeholders and the health of South Australia's most important river, independent Senator Rex Patrick has said.

"While I welcome the Government's decision to split the Murray- Darling Basin Authority into a delivery agency and a regulatory agency, as per the recommendation of the Productivity Commission, that’s where responsible decision-making from the Coalition stops," said Senator Patrick.

"The Minister’s announced intention of no more water buybacks, the most efficient and cost effective way to recover water, is fundamentally flawed. If there are willing sellers then the Government should pursue buybacks."

"Meanwhile the announcement does nothing to ensure the mandated 605GL of Supply Measures actually occurs, nor the 450GL of Efficiency Measures. Both those aspects of the Basin Plan have been classified as high risk by the Productivity Commissioner, but the Minister has remained silent on a plan to address that risk."

"Today’s announcement comes off the back of two scathing reports, one from the Auditor-General on strategic water purchases and the other from the ACCC on the water markets, both of which highlighted Government incompetency in the management of the river system."

Senator Patrick also recently revealed that secret valuation documents showed the taxpayer paid almost double the nominal value and well above an independent valuer’s maximum recommended price for water from Clyde and Kia Ora, the properties at the centre of the #Watergate scandal.

"Even in their attempt to go down the efficient pathway of water buybacks, the Minister and Departments have made a first class mess of things," Senator Patrick said. 

"The Nationals have been allowed to run water policy as a partisan fiefdom in the interests of their big irrigator mates in South West Queensland and Western New South Wales. The time for Prime Minister Morrison to remove the water portfolio from the control of the Nationals is well past due."

"I am completely underwhelmed by today’s announcement. The Government's decision to cease water buybacks is short-sighted, the risks associated with the supply and efficiency projects has not been addressed, and there is still no remedy in sight for diminishing inflows caused by climate change."

"Australian taxpayers, stakeholders in the Murray-Darling Basin and that great river system all deserve much better than what the Nationals have offered up over the last 7 years."