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Question Time: Menindee Fish Kill and River Mismanagement

On Wednesday 22 March 2023, I asked the Environment and Water Minister about the mass fish kill in Menindee, and if the Labor Government plans to address the NSW Government's mismanagement of the river system. You can read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Water. The massive fish kill in Menindee in New South Wales is a disaster and horrific evidence of the drastic climate crisis. Given the New South Wales government's mismanagement of its water, will you take over management of the river system to reinstate water buybacks to save the river? And, Minister, would you drink the water from Menindee?

T PLIBERSEK: I want to thank the honourable member for her question about the very important task that we have of implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full, something that we on this side of the chamber are absolutely committed to. It is absolutely devastating to see the events in Menindee, the mass fish kills in the—

Opposition members interjecting—

T PLIBERSEK: Honestly, the interjections from those opposite are so pointless. If you had done anything in nine years to deliver on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, we would be in a better place now.

Opposition members interjecting—

M DICK: Order! The Leader of The Nationals, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the member for Hasluck.

T PLIBERSEK: I have recovered more water towards the additional environment water target in nine months than you did in nine years because you tied up the plan in brown tape. You deliberately sabotaged it.

I want to address this very important question that the member has asked about Menindee. Four years ago we saw mass fish kills. We're seeing them again for different causes. This time we're talking about deoxygenised blackwaters as a result of the flood and the very high temperatures we've seen, which is devastating for the town of Menindee and for the environment. I have personally contacted the New South Wales water minister to offer my support to him. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder are working very closely with New South Wales, which obviously has primary responsibility for addressing this catastrophic situation once again in Menindee.

But the more important underlying question that the member is asking is: how do we work cooperatively with the states and territories to deliver on this plan? It is a very important question because, for nine years, we saw so very little progress from those opposite. What we are doing is progressing with the infrastructure projects that actually stack up. We are working across the Murray-Darling Basin system to open purchasing of water towards the Bridging the Gap target, and we have to complete that Bridging the Gap target. We are working with fantastic organisations, like the one we've got visiting us today, Murray Irrigation, to deliver on the sorts of plans that they want to see to make sure that they have the water they need to meet the food and fibre requirements of our agricultural sector. For our towns, for our agricultural sector and, very importantly, for our environment we will deliver on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full.

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