By Anthony Albanese MP and Terri Butler MP

08 April 2022

An Albanese Labor Government will protect Australia’s precious water resources with a five-point plan for the Murray Darling Basin that strikes the right balance between the needs of local communities, farmers and the environment.
The Murray Darling is Australia’s biggest and most important river system and its future is critical for the livelihoods and welfare of millions of Australians and for our environment and natural resources.

The future of the Murray Darling is too important to risk three more years of Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce.
The Morrison-Joyce Government will never act because the Nationals won’t let them. The environment is hurting and Murray Darling Basin communities are paying the price.
Australians have noticed the efforts of members of the Morrison-Joyce Government to shred the Plan altogether. And South Australians haven’t forgotten that Barnaby Joyce told them to “move to where the water is” during the millennium drought.
Labor will deliver on the final 450 gigalitres (GL) of water for the environment that Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce have failed to deliver.
Our policy will uphold the Murray Darling Plan and lay the groundwork for the Plan’s future by restoring integrity, boosting compliance and driving reforms.
Labor will commit $26 million to establish a National Water Commission to drive ongoing water reform, and future-proof Australia’s water resources, bringing national leadership and fairness into water policy.

Labor will broaden the National Water Grid Fund investment policy, to allow funding for a broader range of projects, including for essential town water supplies in regional and remote communities.  
Our five-point plan for the Murray Darling Basin comprises: 

  1. Working with Basin governments and stakeholders to deliver on water commitments, including the 450 GL of water for the environment.
  2. Increasing compliance across the Basin and, to support that compliance work, committing an additional $35 million for improved metering and monitoring.
  3. Restoring integrity and confidence by working with stakeholders to implement relevant ACCC recommendations, and by making the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s modelling and data publicly available where possible.
  4. Increasing First Nations ownership of water entitlements and participation in decision making.
  5. Future-proofing the Basin Plan by updating the science, committing $8.5 million for the CSIRO Sustainable Yield study to inform the forthcoming review, committing $3.5 million for an independent study on climate change’s effect on Ramsar wetlands in the Basin and, if justified, considering whether to bring forward the commencement of the 2026 review.

Over nearly a decade in office, the Morrison-Joyce Government has refused to implement the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and it is Basin communities that are paying the price.
The Government’s refusal to act means they’ve failed to deliver the final 450 GL and resulted in delays and failures on the environmental outcomes equivalent to 605 GL of water following adjustments to the recovery amounts.

They have also failed to deliver the $40 million promised for First Nations water entitlements back in 2018.
Unlike the Morrison-Joyce Government, Labor will uphold the letter and spirit of the Murray Darling Basin to keep faith with its participants and with all Australians.
For water infrastructure, we will take up the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to broaden the remit of the National Water Grid Fund. As the Productivity Commission said, the fund’s investment policy should neither prioritise a particular sector or class of water user, nor be limited to providing water for primary industry.

When it comes to water reform, Labor will end the drift and recognise the importance of water policy. Our National Water Commission will drive the renewal of the National Water Initiative and will better prepare Australia for future threats to water security, including climate change.
Only an Albanese Labor Government will provide the leadership needed to drive water reform, deliver water security, and uphold the Murray Darling Basin Plan.