Showing posts with label environmental vandalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environmental vandalism. Show all posts

Friday, 1 February 2019

Murray-Darling Basin Commission Report Précis: hard right ideology, ignorance, politics and greed have all but killed the largest river system in Australia


The Guardian, 29 January 2019: The fish kill near Menindee in NSW on Monday left the Darling River carpeted in dead fish. A South Australian royal commission is likely to find the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be in breach of the federal Water Act. Photograph: Graeme McCrabb

ABC News, 30 January 2019:

The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission has found Commonwealth officials committed gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions in drawing up the multi-billion-dollar deal to save Australia's largest river system.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC recommended a complete overhaul of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, including reallocating more water from irrigation to the environment.

The report found the original plan ignored potentially "catastrophic" risks of climate change….

Commissioner Walker accused the original architects of the multi-billion-dollar plan of being influenced by politics, with the report finding "politics rather than science" drove the setting of the "Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) and the recovery figure of 2,750 GL".

"The [water] recovery amount had to start with a 'two'," he said.

"This was not a scientific determination, but one made by senior management and the board of the MDBA……


Triple bottom line myth

The most pernicious of the polemical uses to which the slogan of the triple bottom line has been turned is to argue, in various forums and with varying approaches to frankness, that the triple bottom line requires the volume of reduction in consumptive take (sometimes called the water to be ‘recovered’, ie for the environment) somehow to be less than it would be on solely the environmental grounds stipulated in the Water Act, whenever it can be seen that recovering less would benefit farming, therefore the economy and therefore society. It is, admittedly, hard not to travesty the argument, so bereft as it is of a serious purposive reading of the actual enacted text.

No-one, in or out of this Commission, has explained how this triple bottom line is meant to work, directed as it must be to a numerically designated ‘limit’ of take. If all three dimensions are operating equally and simultaneously, as the slogan and the statutory term ‘optimises’ might at first sight suggest, how does a statutory decision-maker adjust — up or down — the recovery target by reference to each of the three dimensions? They are, at least partially, incommensurables. And what is the real difference, when it comes to irrigated agriculture, between economic and social outcomes? How far does one project in order to assess the best available outcomes?

None of these imponderable puzzles exists on the plain reading of the Water Act, by which the environmental threshold level (no ‘compromise’ of key environmental values) is set — and then as much irrigation water as can sensibly be made available is made available, in order to optimise the economic and social outcomes generated by the continuation of modern and efficient irrigated agriculture. Of course, from time to time, not least because of the inter-generational ecologically sustainable development principles, social outcomes — and even economic outcomes — may well come to be seen as mandating less rather than more (or the same) volume of consumptive take. But the true, single, bottom line is that no more water may be taken than at the level beyond which the key environmental values would be compromised.

The late Professor John Briscoe, whose distinguished career culminated at Harvard, was a doyen of international water resources management studies. His insights and eminence were acknowledged by, among many other weighty assignments around the world, his selection to play a leading role in the 2010 High-Level External Review Panel convened by the MDBA to scrutinize and critique the beleaguered draft Guide to the proposed Basin Plan (Guide) (see Chapter 4). In 2011, he corresponded with the Senate’s Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which has published his notable letter dated 24 February 2011, by way of a submission by him to the Committee’s inquiry into provisions of the Water Act. The whole letter is instructive, as might be expected. The following extracts pungently address the triple bottom line myth, expressing conclusions which command agreement. (As opposed to some other conclusions expressed in his letter, where Professor Briscoe is arguably too pessimistic, concerning in particular the aptness of the Water Act itself. 
The letter, to repeat, deserves re-reading.)

The substance of the Act 2: Balance between the environment and human uses

There are claims that the Water Act of 2007 was not an environmental act but one that mandated balance between the environment and human uses. Digging deep into the turgid 236 pages of the Water Act for confirmatory phrases, the Honorable Malcolm Turnbull claims, now, that the Act was all about balance.

To a disinterested reader this is poppycock. The National Productivity Commission’s interpretation of the Water Act (2007) is that “it requires the Murray-Darling basin Authority to determine environmental water needs based on scientific information, but precludes consideration of economic and social costs in deciding the extent to which these needs should be met”. Similarly, the High-Level Review Panel for the Murray Darling Basin Plan (of which I was a member) stated that “The driving value of the Act is that a triple-bottom-line approach (environment, economic, social) is replaced by one in which environment becomes the overriding objective, with the social and economic spheres required to “do the best they can” with whatever is left once environmental needs are addressed.”

This interpretation was also very clearly (and reasonably, in my view) the interpretation taken by the Board and Management of the MDBA in developing the Guide to the Basin Plan. This was transmitted unambiguously to the members of the High-Level Review Panel for the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

(As an aside, I have wondered whether this logic is derived from (a) a belief that this is the right thing to do or (b) an understanding that this was the only constitutionally-defensible approach given that state powers were being abrogated in the name of meeting the Commonwealth’s Ramsar obligations.)

The substance of the Act 3: The roles of science and politics

The Act is based on an extraordinary logic, namely that science will determine what the environment needs and that the task for government (including the MDBA) is then just to “do what science tells it to do”. 

In the deliberations of the High Level Review Panel, we pointed out that, taken literally, this would mean that 100% of the flows of the Basin would have to go to the environment, because the native environment had arisen before man started developing the basin. The absurdity of this point was to drive home the reality — that the Murray is one of the most heavily plumbed river basins in the world, and that the real choice was to decide which set of managed (not natural) environmental (and other) outcomes were most desirable.

The job of science in such an instance is to map out options, indicating clearly the enormous uncertainties that underlie any scenario linking water and environmental outcomes. In its final report, the High-Level Review Panel stated: 

Far from being “value neutral”, a set of value judgements are fundamental to the aspirations of all Acts, including the Water Act. … It is a fundamental tenet of good governance that the scientists produce facts and the government decides on values and makes choices. We are concerned that scientists in the MDBA, who are working to develop “the facts”, may feel that they are expected to trim those so that “the sustainable diversion limit” will be one that is politically acceptable. We strongly believe that this is not only inconsistent with the basic tenets of good governance, but that it is not consistent with the letter of the Act. We equally strongly believe that government needs to make the necessary tradeoffs and value judgements, and needs to be explicit about these, assume responsibility and make the rationale behind these judgements transparent to the public.

A basis in science The crucial steps of setting a SDL, which governs its localized component parts, and observing its mandatory reflection of the ESLT, are among the most important decisions called for by the Water Act. They are forbidden to be politically dictated, say, by Ministerial directions (eg para 48(5)(b)). Their nature is ‘factual or scientific’, and so they are to be addressed as the Water Act requires for such matters.

That is, both the MDBA and the Minister, who between them are statutorily responsible for making the Basin Plan, ‘must … act on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge’ (para 21(4)(b)). As appears throughout this report, this is a serious and fundamental requirement that it appears has most regrettably not been consistently obeyed (see Chapters 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10). It is most certainly not some obscure technical point that could excite only administrative lawyers.
To the contrary, the invocation of science, with the strong epithet ‘best’ to qualify it, brings in its train the demanding and self-critical traditions of empirical enquiry. It definitionally recognizes the provisional and improvable quality of the state of art. It proceeds by testing, and thus needs exposure and debate. Above all, it shuns the ipse dixit of unexplained, unattributed, blank assertions, such as too often emanate at crucial junctures from the MDBA.6 Perhaps the MDBA was not entirely responsible for this ‘aberration’, as Professor Briscoe described it in his letter to the Senate Committee. He suggested it resulted from the ‘institutional power concentration’ created by the Water Act.

Leaving blame aside, it can be readily accepted that Professor Briscoe described in 2011 what he had experienced, and what has continued far too much and for far too long. That is, the highly secretive ‘we will run the numbers and the science behind closed doors and then tell you the result’ MDBA Basin Plan process that Professor Briscoe scorned as ‘the Commonwealth-bureaucrats-and-scientists-know-better-than-states-andcommunities-and-farmers-do model’. He deplored the excessive MDBA ‘confidentiality’ process, which meant ‘there was very little recourse in the process to the immense worldleading knowledge of water management that had developed in Australia during the last 20 years’. He wrote, ‘time and again I heard from professionals, community leaders, farmers and State politicians who had made Australia the widely acknowledged world leaders in arid zone water management that they were excluded from the process’……. [my yellow highlighting]

Recommendations

1. New determinations of the ESLTs, and SDLs for both surface water and groundwater that reflect those ESLTs, should be carried out promptly. Those determinations must be made lawfully — that is, according to the proper construction of the Water Act as outlined in Chapter 3. Those determinations must:

a. be made on the basis of a proper construction of the Water Act, rather than using a triple bottom line approach

b. ensure that each water resource area’s ESLT is correctly determined based on the best available science, including for floodplains, and accordingly is reflected in the Basin-wide ESLT

c. result in an ESLT that ensures Australia fulfils its obligations under the treaties referred to in the Water Act

d. ensure there is no ‘compromise’ to the key environmental assets and ecosystem functions of the Basin — it must restore and protect those that are degraded

e. be made on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge, and by taking into account ESD, including climate change projections

f. be made in such a manner that all of the processes, decision-making and modelling that underpin the determinations are fully disclosed and subject to scientific peer-review and consultation with the broader public.

2. Those determinations will require a greater recovery amount than that which has already been recovered. In order to achieve a higher recovery amount, additional water will need to be purchased by the government and held by the CEWH. That water should be purchased through buybacks.

 3. The MDBA — or some other appropriately funded body — should be required to urgently conduct a review of climate change risks to the whole of the Basin, based on the best available scientific knowledge. This should be incorporated into the determination of the ESLT. 4. A Commonwealth Climate Change Research and Adaptation Authority should be established. This Authority must be independent of government. It should be appropriately funded so that it can properly conduct research into climate change, and formulate plans and give guidance on how the Basin (and other) communities can best adapt to climate change.

There are 44 recommendations in the Commissioner’s report in total and the full report cane be read here.

BACKGROUND

Hard right ideology, ignorance, politics and the greed of irrigators on display over the years.

The Courier, 15 December 2011:

Opposition Leader [and Liberal MP for Warringah] Tony Abbott has given his strongest indication yet he will block the Labor government's Murray Darling Basin plan, telling a rowdy meeting of irrigators near Griffith the Coalition would "not support a bad plan"…...
The meeting, for which most businesses in Griffith shut down for the morning so workers could attend, was the fourth public consultation meeting for the Murray Darling plan, which aims to return water from irrigation back to the ailing river system to boost its environmental health….
The scale of irrigators' anger was made clear by a string of speakers who said towns such as Griffith would be battered by the basin authority's plan to return 2750 gigalitres of water to the river system from irrigators.

 Farm Online, 2 November 2012:

NATIONALS Riverina MP Michael McCormack [now Deputy Prime Minister of Australia] says he's prepared to cross the floor and vote against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan if it takes away 2750 gigalitres from primary production for environmental purposes.
Rural communities and farming stakeholder groups have demanded a final Basin Plan that balances economic and social outcomes in equal consideration with environmental concerns….
"I won't be voting in favour of 2750GL coming out of the (Murray-Darling Basin) system, given the amount of water that's already been bought out of the system.
"I won't be abstaining - I'll be voting against it."

The Guardian, 27 July 2017:

Barnaby Joyce [Nationals MP for New England and then Deputy Prime Minister] has told a pub in a Victorian irrigation district that the Four Corners program which raised allegations of water theft was about taking more water from irrigators and shutting down towns.
The deputy prime minister, agriculture and water minister told a gathering at a Hotel Australia in Shepparton that he had given water back to agriculture through the Murray Darling Basin plan so the “greenies were not running the show”. 
“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” he said in comments reported by the ABC.
 “A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that’s all about? It’s about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down.”


Winter rainfall and streamflow in the southern Basin have declined since the mid-1990s and the Basin has warmed by around a degree since 1910. The Basin is likely to experience significant changes in water availability due to human-caused climate change, particularly in the southern Basin where annual rainfall is projected to change by -11 to +5% by 2030. Any reduction in precipitation is likely to have significant impacts on water flows in rivers, in some cases driving a threefold reduction in runoff, with implications for water recovery under the Basin Plan.

Farm Online, 27 November 2017:

PRIME Minister [and then Liberal MP for Wentworth] Malcolm Turnbull says the SA government’s Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan is picking an “expensive fight” with the federal government and upstream Basin States while examining ground that’s already been “very well tilled”.
Mr Turnbull - the acting Agriculture and Water Resources Minister in Barnaby Joyce’s absence - spoke to media yesterday after SA Premier Jay Weatherill and the state’s Water Minister Ian Hunter revealed they would forge ahead with the Commission inquiry into water monitoring and compliance issues in the $13 billion Basin Plan.


News.com.au, 8 March 2018:

A MAJOR cotton grower is among five people charged for allegedly stealing water from the Murray-Darling Basin.
Prominent irrigator Peter Harris and his wife Jane Harris, who farm cotton in NSW’s north-west have been accused of taking water when the flow did not permit it and breaching licence conditions.
WaterNSW on Thursday said it had begun prosecutions after investigating water management rule breaches.
Three other members of a prominent family have also been accused of theft.
WaterNSW alleges Anthony Barlow, Frederick Barlow and Margaret Barlow were pumping during an embargo and pumping while metering equipment was not working.
The maximum penalty for each of the offences is $247,500.
The prosecutions were announced only moments before the NSW Ombudsman released a damning report saying the WaterNSW had provided the government with incorrect figures on enforcement actions.
In a special report, the NSW Ombudsman said WaterNSW had wrongly claimed to have issued 105 penalty infringements notices and to have initiated 12 prosecutions between July 2017 and November 2017. In fact, no prosecutions had begun nor penalty notices issued during the period.

The Weekly Times, 19 December 2018:

Cohuna irrigator Max Fehring said a push to recover another 450GL would simply mean having to shut down some irrigation areas.
“The environment push is out of control, with no connection to the community impacts,” Mr Fehring said. “You just can’t keep taking water.”
Finley irrigator Waander van Beek said draining water from the Riverina had reduced the reliability of supply from about 85 per cent down to 55 per cent.
Mr van Beek’s wife, Pam, said the district’s irrigators were also angered to see their South Australian colleagues gaining 100 per cent of their allocations, while they got nothing in NSW.
Others were angered by what they see as a waste of water flowing down the Murray to fill South Australia’s Lower Lakes.

ABC News, 29 January 2019:

Recent fish kills in western New South Wales have put Australia's Murray-Darling Basin Planback in the headlines.

However, it has been at the forefront of some of Australia's top legal minds for the past 12 months, with the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission putting it under the microscope.......

What is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?

Management of Australia's biggest water resource has been contentious since before federation.

History was made in 2012, when Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia signed up to the national plan, but it remains controversial.

Some believe it does not provide enough flows to protect the environment, while communities dependent on irrigation say it threatens their economic future.
Why did SA decide to hold a royal commission?

In 2017, an ABC Four Corners investigation uncovered irrigators in New South Wales were taking billions of litres of water earmarked for the environment.

A subsequent report found poor levels of enforcement and a lack of transparency surrounding water management in New South Wales and Queensland.
That sparked outcry in South Australia, at the very end of the system and often the first place to feel the impact of low water flows.

Then premier Jay Weatherill said the report did not go far enough, and needed more detailed findings about individuals who had committed water theft.

He announced the Labor government would launch a royal commission.

Key players didn't give evidence

The SA Government came out swinging with its royal commission, but it didn't take long for it to beencumbered.


That included Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) staff, who are responsible for implementing the plan.

The Federal Government argued it was a longstanding legal precedent that state-based royal commissions did not have the power to compel federal witnesses.

Evidence of mismanagement and fraud revealed

While the royal commission could not hear evidence from current MDBA staff, it did hear from some former senior employees.

They included David Bell, who at one stage was responsible for setting an environmentally-sustainable level of water extraction.

He told the inquiry the amount of water set aside for the environment became a political decision, rather than a scientific one.

The 2010 'Guide to the proposed Basin Plan' recommended 6,900 gigalitres of water would need to be returned to the system for there to be a 'low uncertainty' of achieving environmental outcomes.

In the final 2012 plan, 2,750 gigalitres were allocated.

It also heard from Dr Matt Colloff, a now retired CSIRO scientist who was part of a team that worked on a report into the plan.


In his closing submission to the royal commission, counsel assisting Richard Beasley SC said that by taking social and economic factors into consideration when setting environmental flows, the MDBA had erred.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has misinterpreted the Water Act, not in a minor way, not in an unimportant way, in a crucial way," he said.

"That's not only error, or worse than error, it's a massive one with regrettable consequences for the lawfulness of that part of the Basin Plan."
>
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Another thing for NSW voters to remember as they cast their ballot in the 2019 state and federal elections


The Shenhua Group appear to have first approached the NSW O'Farrell Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government in 2011-2012 concerning its plans to mine for coal on the Liverpool Plains, a significant NSW foodbowl. 

This particular state government was the subject of not one but two investigations by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) - Operations Spicer (2014) and Credo (2014). 

After he was found to have misled the independent commission Premier O'Farrell resigned as Premier in April 2014 and as Liberal MP for Ku-ring-gai in March 2015. Similarly the then NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for the Central Coast, Special Minister of State and Liberal MP for Terrigal Chris Hartcher resigned as government minister in December 2013 after he was named in ICAC hearings and left the parliament in March 2015.

On 28 January 2015 the NSW Minister for Planning and Liberal MP for Goulburn Pru Goward granted development consent for a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned Shenhua Group, Shenhua Watermark Coal Pty Ltd, to create and operate an open cut mine on the Liverpool Plains. 

On 4 July 2015 then Australian Minister for the Environment and Liberal MP for Flinders Greg Hunt ticked off on the Abbott Government's environmental approval for Shenhua Watermark Coal to proceed with its mining operation.

Glaringly obvious environmental risks associated with large-scale mining in the region and vocal local community opposition had led to a downsizing of the potential mine site, for which the  NSW Berejiklian Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government paid the Shenhua Group $262 million in compensation.
ABC News, 31 July 2015, projected new mine boundaries

However, in July 2018 the Berejiklian Government renewed Shenhua’s mining exploration licence.


Given that on the successive watches of the O'Farrell, Baird and Berejiklian governments instances of mismanagement and/or corrupt conduct in relation to water sustainability, mining leases and the environment have been reported one would think that an abundance of caution would be exercised.

Instead we now learn that that Shenhua Watermark Coal has been allowed to vary development consent conditions for the open cut mine on the edge of the flood plain and, it is looking increasingly like pro coalformer mining industry lawyer, current Australian Minister for the Environment and Liberal MP for Durack, Melissa Price, will wave through these variations on behalf of the Morrison Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government. 

Thereby placing even more pressure on the already stressed surface and underground water resources of the state.

The Liverpool Plains are said to be a significant groundwater source in the New South Wales section of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Lock The Gate Alliance, 8 January 2019:

The NSW Government has allowed mining company Shenhua to alter its development approval for the controversial Watermark open cut coal mine in the Liverpool Plains, near Gunnedah, which will enable work on site to begin without key management plans being approved.

Despite the NSW deal, Shenhua is still not able to commence work under the Federal environmental approval until two important management plans, including the crucial Water Management Plan, have been approved by the Federal Government.

Now local farmers are afraid that the Federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, may be about to follow the NSW Government lead and vary the approval to allow Shenhua to start pre-construction for their mine without the management plans that were promised.

Liverpool Plains farmer John Hamparsum said, “We’re disgusted that the NSW Government has capitulated to Shenhua yet again, and amended the development consent to let them start pre-construction work without the crucial Water Management Plan in place.

"They have repeatedly stated that the best science would apply to this mine before any work was done, and now they’ve thrown that out the window.

"We’re calling on the Federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, and New England MP, Barnaby Joyce to now step up and promise that not a sod will be turned on this mine until the full Water Management Plan has been developed and reviewed by independent scientists.

"This mine represents a massive threat to our water resources and our capacity to feed Australia, and if the National Party has any respect for agriculture they need to act now and deliver on their promise that the best science will be applied.

"We won’t accept creeping development of this mine and weakening of the conditions that were put in place to protect our precious groundwater," he said.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, "It’s been four years since the NSW and Federal Governments approved Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains and there are still no management plans in place.

"Instead of upholding the conditions of Shenhua’s approval, the NSW Government has watered them down so that Shenhua can start work without these crucial plans in place.

"The community has a long memory and will not accept Governments changing the rules to the benefit of foreign-owned mining giants over local farmers," she said.

The former Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, made a strong commitment that a Water Management Plan for the project would not be approved unless the Independent Expert Scientific Committee was satisfied with it.

The amended NSW approval can be accessed here.

A legal perspective on the issues surrounding water management by Dr Emma Carmody, Senior Policy and Law Reform Solicitor, EDO NSW and Legal Advisor, Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is included in the December 2018 issue of Law Society Journal,  Managing our scarce water resources: recent developments in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Ecological Disaster in Murray-Darling River Systems January 2019: Trump-lite Scott Morrison blames Labor and the drought

@michaeldaleyMP, 13 January 2019

In March 2012 it was the O’Farrell Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government who received the above Memorandum on the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources which covered both the Barwon-Darling unregulated river water source and the Upper Darling Alluvial groundwater source.

This NSW water sharing plan was clearly prefaced on creating a market for the sale of water rights and the needs of commercial irrigators and the mining industry:


2.1 Why are water sharing plans being prepared? Expansion of water extraction across NSW in the 20th century has placed most valleys at or close to the limit of sustainable water extraction. This has seen increasing competition between water users (towns, farmers, industries and irrigators) for access to water. This has also placed pressure on the health and biological diversity of our rivers and aquifers.

Plans provide a legal basis for sharing water between the environment and consumptive purposes. Under the Water Management Act 2000, the sharing of water must protect the water source and its dependent ecosystems and must protect basic landholder rights. Sharing or extraction of water under any other right must not prejudice these rights. Therefore, sharing water to licensed water users is effectively the next priority for water sharing. Among licensed water users, priority is given to water utilities and licensed domestic and stock use, ahead of commercial purposes such as irrigation and other industries.

Plans also recognise the economic benefits that commercial users such as irrigation and industry can bring to a region. Upon commencement, access licences held under the Water Act 1912 (WA 1912) are converted to access licences under the Water Management Act 2000 and land and water rights are separated. This facilitates the trade of access licences and can encourage more efficient use of water resources. It also allows new industries to develop as water can move to its highest value use.

In conjunction with the Water Management Act 2000, plans also set rules so that commercial users can also continue to operate productively. In general, commercial licences under the Water Management Act 2000 are granted in perpetuity, providing greater commercial security of water access entitlements. Plans also define the access rules for commercial users for ten years providing all users with greater certainty regarding sharing arrangements.

The warning in the Memorandum was ignored by the O’Farrell. Baird and Berejiklian Coalition Governments and, by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority when it drained 2,000 gigalitres of water from the Menindee lakes in 2017.

Obviously fearing the electorate will remember: a) that when the Abbott Coalition Government came to power it handed even more power over water resources back to the states & abolished the independent National Water Commissionand b) then recall the rampant abuse of water resources under then Deputy PM and Nationals MP for New England as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce as well as multiple allegation of water theft; Prime Minister and Liberal  MP for Cook Scott Morrison sought to wrongly blame first Federal Labor and then the drought for the ecological devastation which is occurring in the NSW section of the Murray-Darling river systems.

ABC News, 14 January 2019:



 The State Government is bracing for another mass fish kill in the Darling River this week, with soaring temperatures forecast in western NSW.

The mercury is expected to reach up to 46 degrees Celsius in the town of Menindee, where up to 1 million native species were killed in an algal bloom over the New Year.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a heatwave, caused by hot air being blown from Central Australia, would persist until Saturday and could break temperature records around Broken Hill.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said state and local governments would work with the community to manage the possibility of another ecological disaster.

"Well we know that we've got high temperatures right across the state and a lot of poor water quality situations particularly brought on by the extended drought so unfortunately we are expecting that we may see more fish killed," Mr Blair said.

The warning comes as contractors prepare to clear the 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River of dead fish before their rotting carcasses compound the situation.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will convene a meeting of State and Federal environmental and water stakeholders working under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Mr Littleproud proposed using $5 million for a native fish recovery strategy and will seek agreement for the money to come from Murray-Darling Basin funds.

"The reality is we're in a serious drought and the only silver bullet is rain," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuted a report released by NSW Labor at the weekend claiming the Liberal Government ignored warnings about low water levels.

"I'm concerned today that some might want to play politics," he said.

"There were reports done by scientists under Labor's contribution to that plan back in 2012, the plan has been operating in accordance with that advice and so we need to just keep on working on the issue."

Mr Morrison said the fish kill was because of the drought.

"It's a devastating ecological event, particularly for those all throughout that region the sheer visual image of this is terribly upsetting," he said.

However, that is disputed by many people in Menindee, who argue poor water management has compounded the mass kill. [my yellow highlighting]

Morrison in blaming everyone but successive Federal (since September 2013) and NSW (since March 2011) Coalition governments forgets that Australian voters can read and, as late as June 2018 the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office as part of the NSW Interagency Working Group for Better Managing Environmental Water offered advice on the Barwon-Darling which both the current Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response & Liberal MP for Maranoa David Littleproud and current NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water & Nationals MLC Niall Blair appear to have ignored until it was too late.

Footnote

1. One of the last things the National Water Commission (NWC) did before then Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott abolished it was to inform the Abbott Coalition Government that:

"Ten years on from the signing of the NWI, water reform in Australia is at a cross roads. Many reform gains are now taken for granted and the multi-party support that has been a hallmark of this historic agreement is at risk of breaking down.
Given the substantial government investments and hard-won progress so far, and the valuable but challenging gains yet to be realised, it is critical that there is no backsliding from reform principles.
Strong leadership is essential to realise the full benefits of water reform and to embed proven NWI principles into the decision making of all Australian governments."