LETTER: MDBA response inappropriate

HOW dare the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) deign to tell anyone living along the Darling River downstream of Bourke that “The Basin Plan is starting to deliver”? (MDBA response to SA royal commission Mildura Weekly, March 1).

The blanket statement that “Once fully implemented, it will reduce water extractions across the Basin by around 20 per cent” is baseless, considering so much of the northern basin remains unmetered and no accurate, comparable baseline has even been established.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has explained the problem of not having a basis of evaluation and not accurately accounting for environmental impacts in its most recent technical report Water Flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: Observed versus Expected.

That these selected representatives of the MDBA bother outlining, in very defensive terms, their indignant refusal of the royal commission’s findings – disrespectfully fobbed off as “opinion” – is laughable, especially considering the ­decision not to engage in the process and have any of their assertions challenged, nor address any of the raft of disturbing claims and alleg­ations levelled against them.

A token paragraph asserting “The MDBA has a long-standing commitment to engaging with ­Aboriginal people” belies the truth of disinterest.

The most glaringly obvious elephant in the room of the Murray-

Darling Basin is the demise of the Darling River and the frustration of ­locals denied any engagement and the delayed response to fish kills, even refusing to consider downstream impacts during the northern basin review.

This approach only serves to protect the privileged few, granted seats of power in return for supporting the National Party.

Even the Nationals’ No.1 Upper House candidate Perin Davey had to withdraw her nomination for a board position with MDBA, hand-picked by Phillip Glyde’s mate Barnaby Joyce, when she was identified in the Four Corners Pumped episode as the voice responding to Gavin Hanlon’s offer of debadged information for selected stakeholders with “That’d be great, thanks”.

Neither the Water Minister at the time, nor the MDBA chief exec­utive considered her nomination for the position tainted, despite Mr Hanlon being referred to ICAC for his action. 

This speaks volumes about how inappropriate decisions and lack of governance skews the workings of the MDBA in favour of party political interests.

Of course Glyde and the others believe they should “stay the course” – their pay packets depend on it.

Why should we be afraid to renegotiate what is clearly not working? Every Australian is paying for the MDBA, yet the region in direst straits is continually ignored, disengaged and not represented. 

 How much more river needs to die before they are held to account?  

Jane MacAllister,

Gol Gol

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