18 October 2023
I rise to support the member for Goldstein’s amendments in relation to the impacts of climate change on the basin. They seek to amend the Water Act to recognise and acknowledge the threat of climate change to the communities, environment and industries of the Murray-Darling Basin, and the need for immediate and urgent action in response.
These amendments also require the Basin Plan to be prepared to provide immediate, urgent and adaptive responses to the impacts of climate change. The current Basin Plan doesn’t integrate the impacts of climate change at all. In my consultations on this bill, I heard time and time again that this is a significant failure. We must confront the facts. Climate change already does, and will increasingly, cause declines in average water inflows into the basin and increases in flow variability. And we can’t stick our heads in the sand on this; we’ve known this to be the case for years. In 2007, when the Water Act was passed, the CSIRO estimated that by 2020 average annual flows could decline by about 15 per cent due to climate change; recovery from bushfire; farm, dam and plantation expansion; and increasing use of groundwater. I’ve seen this up-front in my electorate.
The CSIRO’s estimates, in fact, came true. And it wasn’t the Greens or the scientists themselves that brought them to the public’s attention in 2007. I’d like to remind the House that it was John Howard, in his address to the National Press Club in 2007, where he stated:
… with the prospect of long-term climate change, we need radical and permanent change.
That means looking at the evidence as it emerges …
So radical and permanent change led to the Water Act and the Basin Plan, and it was John Howard who said those words.
We need a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that puts us on the front foot, with a healthy river system that delivers for basin towns, communities, farmers and the environment, and which is resilient in the face of a changing climate. While I understand that the member for Goldstein’s amendments won’t be passed today, their aim is to address that. Ultimately, if we can’t incorporate climate change into our complex public policy on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, then we have serious, serious issues that we will be confronting when we seek to draw up the next plan. So I commend the member for Goldstein for her amendments.