Signatures on an agreement won’t be enough to save the dying River Murray, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
First Ministers are expected to sign an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for Murray-Darling Basin Reform at today’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Sydney.
“The easy task for First Ministers is to sign the IGA, which will simply put in place the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to in Adelaide in March,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“However, these signatures risk being as worthless as those on Chamberlain’s infamous Munich Agreement unless urgent action is taken to improve the health of the river now, particularly the Lower Murray.
“My fear is the document signed today will be portrayed by Labor Governments as real action but will instead defer decisions and do little to prevent the River Murray’s continuing decline.
“The River Murray simply can’t afford to wait until the next Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting in November for decisions to be taken, let alone 2019 for a truly national Basin Plan to take effect.
“Scientific evidence and reports of recent days continue to indicate the Coorong and Lower Lakes in particular have deteriorated significantly to the point that degradation might now be irreversible.
“We not only have desperately low river levels with dire consequences for our water supply and irrigators, but increasing salinity, flora and fauna loss and the increasing exposure of acid sulphate soils.
“First Ministers need to reach real agreement and take real action to save these world recognised ecosystems of great environmental significance.
“Caps on water trading and other restrictions to effective water trading must be lifted. Governments must urgently look to purchase short-term water from upstream to provide some inflow into the desperate Lower Murray region. 
“Until we have real action and real outcomes for the Murray, the IGA will just be ‘peace for our time’ for a river system slowly dying before our eyes.”