Chamber: Senate on 15/10/2019 Item: QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS – Murray-Darling Basin Speaker: Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah. Source
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Sarah Hanson-Young Senate Speech about Building Dams.
Hanson Young: I was asking in relation to this government’s proposal to spend more taxpayers’ money building more dams in places such as New South Wales. And while I’m standing here on my feet, we know, of course, that the New South Wales state government have just announced that they are going to move ahead with watering down—excuse the pun—and slashing environmental protections and assessments to build new dams and new pipelines, all in a big rush to look as though they’re doing something in relation to the crippling drought, which we’re experiencing throughout the Murray-Darling Basin.
Of course, the big problem here is that simply building dams doesn’t make it rain. Building dams does not create more water. In fact, we are going to see this government spending hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money building dams that will further destroy the Murray-Darling Basin river system and further destroy the farming communities throughout the basin, because it won’t be the community and it won’t be the river that get access to this water that is harvested and stored. We know that because the rules in New South Wales around allocation are an absolute joke. They give priority to big corporate irrigation over the needs of the community and the environment. So we’re going to see buckets of taxpayers’ money spent on dams that are not going to be assessed for their environmental impact. There’s no cost-benefit analysis. The water is going to be harvested and then in three or four years time we will be back to where we were. This is an absolute disaster.
We are facing a continually drying climate. We are in the midst of a climate emergency, and all we get from this government is ‘pray for rain’. That’s the only plan they have. Building dams won’t make it rain and having a drought plan with no plan for climate change means you’ve got nothing at all. This government is up ‘crap creek’ without a paddle right now. There’s no water in the river and they can’t get themselves out of it, so they’re willing to just splash around money and pretend, hoping that the community—the farmers and the taxpayers—won’t notice. It is an absolute disgrace on the part of this government, despite all of the heartaches that is going on in river communities. We have towns that don’t have clean water. You can’t turn on the tap and take a glass of water to drink. We’ve got farmers, small-family farmers, who don’t have enough water for their stock or their crops. Meanwhile, big corporate irrigators continue to store water and irrigate at the expense of everybody else.
The river is in crisis. We saw the millions of fish that were dead in the Menindee lake system over summer. Just in the last 48 hours another mass fish death has been sighted, and it’s not even December yet—we are in October. This summer is going to be hotter and drier. We know that. That’s what the scientists are telling us. That’s what the Bureau of Meteorology is telling us. It is going to be the summer of death—the summer of death for the Murray-Darling Basin and for the communities that are given no hope by this government, who are saying: ‘Just wait a few years. We’ll spend the taxpayers’ money and build some dams, and, fingers crossed, if we pray hard enough it will start raining.’ It is not a plan for drought. It is not a plan for climate action. Instead, we are just hanging our family farms and river communities out to dry, all the while doing the bidding of big corporate interests by slashing and burning environmental regulation and spending taxpayers’ money while we do it. I can guarantee that in three or four years time the river is going to be in a worse situation, not a better one, because this government did nothing about it.