Prime Minister re-affirms the Basin Plan deal and commits to compliance reform

Media release
25 Nov 2017
Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
Agriculture and Regional Australia

The Prime Minister has welcomed the release of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s “Basin-wide Review of Compliance with State and Federal water laws”.

The MDBA, and the Independent Panel of experts assisting the review, identified a number of areas where compliance arrangements need improvement.

The Commonwealth supports these recommendations and calls on Basin states to do the same.

The review clearly shows that all Basin governments need to lift their game and better enforce their water laws.  Specifically, we need improved metering, protected environmental flows and proper resourcing of compliance and enforcement activities.

The review, and the report of the independent panel, both found the MDBA also needs to ensure better compliance with the Basin Plan and Water Act.

Water theft is a crime – pure and simple.  All Australians need confidence the rules governing water use are applied fairly, without fear or favour.

The review provides a sensible pathway for governments to work collectively to rebuild trust and deliver the Basin Plan.

For its part the Commonwealth commits to strengthening the MDBA’s compliance capacity, and making current funding for Basin states to implement the Basin Plan contingent on achieving the improved compliance outcomes identified by review.

The Prime Minister calls on Basin states to step up, do their part, get behind the recommendations, and commit to implementing them.

The Basin states and the Commonwealth should come together at the next Basin Ministerial Council meeting on 19 December to map out implementation, and then report to the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

The MDBA’s review, together with other recent reports and inquiries, shows clearly what needs to be done - it’s now time to get on with it, rather than commissioning yet another inquiry.

Delivering the Basin Plan requires more than just strengthened compliance arrangements. That is why the Prime Minister has today announced a new implementation agenda for delivering the Basin Plan:

  • Strengthening Compliance – by acting on the recommendations of the MDBA Review;
  • Finalising remaining water recovery – including delivering the first tranche of efficiency measures required by June 2019, and agreeing a pathway to recover by 2024 the balance of the efficiency measures as agreed by Basin governments;
  • Delivering on the Northern Basin review – including reducing impacts on communities and supporting states to deliver environmental works and measures;
  • Delivering the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment – including projects that reduce the water recovery task while achieving equivalent environmental outcomes;
  • Finalising State Water Resource Plans – working closely with Basin states to finalise those plans to give full effect to the Basin Plan from 1 July 2019; and
  • Enhancing Monitoring and Communication – long-term monitoring of water recovery impacts and re‑invigorating engagement with Basin communities to ensure better outcomes.

The Government is squarely focused on finalising key elements of the Basin Plan, building a strong culture of compliance across the Basin, and supporting Basin communities.

Delivering the Basin Plan requires the cooperation and support of all Basin governments.  

The Prime Minister calls on all Basin First Ministers to reaffirm their commitment to the Basin Plan and collaborate to get the job done, in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement and the Basin Plan that received bipartisan support in the Federal Parliament.