SA premier informs Labor Prime Minister (Gillard) that unless his State receives more water from Murray Darling Basin Plan, he would take Commonwealth to Federal Court and challenge constitutional right of to plan for the Basin.

Water Act 2007 subsequently amended, without community or stakeholder consultation.


Sussan Ley secures commitment from Leader of Opposition (Liberal Party leader, the Hon Tony Abbott MP) to legislate 1500 gigalitre cap on water buybacks (attached, pages 9, 10).

Cap on buybacks one of the key pillars for the Coalition’s support for the Basin Plan, “without a cap, our basin community has no certainty.”

The Labor Party spent $2.2 billion on non-strategic, non-targeted buybacks, with a devastating effect on our communities. Buybacks have never been a Liberal or National party policy. While in opposition I gained a commitment, which was later legislated, to ensure that this would not happen again.


Water Amendment Act (Water for the Environment Special Account) Act 2013 passed with support of Greens; requires an additional 450 gigalitres to be found from buy-backs or other means (on top of 2750 gigalitres)




Coalition scales back buybacks to ensure focus of water recovery on infrastructure upgrades rather than buybacks.

MARCH 2015

Coalition Government announced that they would bring forward legislation to cap buybacks to 1500 gigalitres, as promised by the Prime Minister (then Leader of Opposition) in November 2012.

MAY 2015

In 2015 the Water Amendment Bill 2015, imposed a 1500 GL statutory limit on Commonwealth buybacks. At that time we also moved an amendment to ensure that on farm infrastructure expenditure could not be used for buybacks.

Amends the: Water Act 2007 to impose a duty on the Commonwealth not to exceed the 1500 gigalitre limit on surface water purchases in the Murray-Darling Basin at the time of entering into a water purchase contract; and Basin Plan 2012 to provide flexibility in the recovery of 450 gigalitres of water for the environment through efficiency measures funded under the Water for the Environment Special Account.

Bill was introduced in May 2015 and passed both houses in September 2015.


Water Amendment Bill 2015, Second Reading, 9 September 2015 [1]

At the time, a lot of conversations were had between members of the then opposition, and I advocated very strongly for a cap on buyback because we had seen the non-strategic, non-targeted buyback by the Labor Party and the effect it had had on basin communities. That is the main subject for discussion today in this bill, and it is important to reflect on what Labor’s policy did to the communities that I represent. It divided communities; it tore communities apart. Effectively, it said: ‘Here are government dollars to buy your water to take you out of production. It doesn’t matter where you are; it doesn’t matter what you are doing; it doesn’t matter what your own investment on-farm has been.’ And you, as the farmer, were then always under pressure during times of drought—which we were in—from your bank, from your lender. They would say: ‘Suddenly your balance sheet has been transformed with this asset that is water. We’d like you to sell it, and we’d like the money so you can pay off debt. And that’s all right, because you can still carry on your farming enterprise.





Constituency Statement – 3 December 2015[2]


For farmers who are fourth and fifth generation to not be able to plant a rice crop this season because of low allocations and the high cost of temporary water—close to $300 a megalitre—but to watch the Murray River rapidly delivering large volumes of water downstream and know that they are effectively excluded from their livelihood is causing great angst…





            Snowy borrow – Murray Irrigation negotiates water sharing scheme

Snowy Hydro Limited agrees to make up 200GL of water available in an advance for Murray Irrigation for the 2016-17 irrigation season. Sussan Ley’s involvement is seen as critical in securing the positive outcome for the region[3].



Water Legislation Amendment (Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2016[4]

environmental standards are a complicated issue to come to terms with when you are standing knee-deep in a mosquito-ridden swamp pulling your half-dead sheep out, your crops are ruined and your livelihood is under threat, and then you realise that this is effectively a flood that is not nature but is made by man or, indeed, by releases from the Hume Dam.


The confidence that I often talk about has been the indicator and the restoration of confidence in the authority would be an enormous sign to everyone that the Basin Plan is working. You cannot be the architect of these things from outside the basin, ignoring the pain that is produced and visited on landholders and farms, and then, in some way, say that their views, their confidence and their involvement is secondary….


There is much work to be done to keep the Basin Plan healthy, both in terms of the commitment of landholders and the operational results for the environment.




Big tax break! Company welcomes $6.36 mil. Windfall

Murray Irrigation Limited receives Australian Taxation Office credit of $6.368 million, recognising Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley for making sure ‘Murray Irrigation’s issues were not forgotten and lost in the bureaucratic processes in Canberra’[5].

Sussan Ley – on the record with water


Constituency Statement – 9 February 2017[6]


If the Basin Plan’s environmental outcomes can be met using less environmental water then there must be an opportunity to adjust this SDL by more than five per cent. I stand ready to advocate for legislative change to either alter this figure, if indeed we can achieve the outcomes with less water being removed, or express the amount as a single new target of, say, 2,100 gigalitres. My communities, large and small, depend on us getting this right.


MARCH 2017

Adjournment; Murray Darling Basin Plan, 30 March 2017[7]

But we are at a tipping point with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I say that because there is a crisis of confidence in the communities I represent. They are on board with the plan, but only just. We are in the process of finalising the projects that will provide 650 gigalitres of offsets to bridge the gap between the total diversion limit of 2,750 gigalitres and the water that has been brought back already. A technical complexity means 106 gigalitres of the 650 gigalitres could still need to be found from productive agriculture, so I am calling for an amendment for the basin plan to lock in a cap on recovered water of 2,100 gigalitres.


Also note: Statements by Members, Rice Industry, 28 March 2017[8]


Matters of Public Importance; Murray Darling Basin, 9 August 2017[9]


I want to make it very clear that where something has been done wrong, it should be corrected. No question. The Deputy Prime Minister said that; every one of my colleagues would say that. Every one of my colleagues would acknowledge that if you break the rules you pay the penalty. But the federal government doesn’t run the rivers in New South Wales. We don’t do the measuring. We don’t do the metering. What about the constitution? Constitutional responsibility has five governments sitting around the table at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council because the states have not given their responsibility to the Commonwealth. We do not control what they do. We work with them in partnership.



The 450GL “upwater”; this ‘add on’ to the Basin Plan asking for an additional 450GL was politically motivated and always a bridge too far. I have long been critical of the extraction of an additional 450GL from the basin, particularly from the Southern Basin.[10]


Labor/Greens Norther Basin disallowance motion; I was extremely worried this would negate the 605GL SDL offsets, which would mean more water buyback.

I have always maintained we cannot lose another drop of water from this region. This concern led me to contact the New South Wales Water, Minister Niall Blair, to urge him to withdraw our state from the Basin Plan.

Adjournment, Murray Darling Basin, 8 February 2018[11]

I’m rising to discuss the most important issue in the electorate of Farrer, which is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the games that the Labor Party is playing in an effort perhaps not to derail the plan but to ensure that they have maximum chance of winning the federal seat of Batman, which is a long way from the Murray-Darling Basin.


To see what is happening to the communities that I have represented, some only since the last election but many for nearly 18 years, is quite heartbreaking because we have been through so much and given so much and hurt so much only to see, at this almost final stage, a game being played for political advantage in a community a long, long way from the Murray-Darling Basin.


Statements by Members; Murray Darling Basin (Disallowance), 15 February 2018[12]

It gives me no joy to say this on behalf of the people I represent, but, as I foreshadowed last week, I have called Niall Blair, the New South Wales water minister, and urged him to withdraw New South Wales from the Basin Plan. Trust has gone; confidence has gone.

For over a decade, we did what we were asked to do. We gave up productive water for genuine environmental priorities. We watched a Labor buyback drain life from our farming towns. Line by line, farm by farm, family by family, we worked it through. In return, we have been punished by Labor, playing politics with all of our lives. Today we say: enough is enough.

MAY 2018

Constituency Statement; Murray Darling Basin Plan, 10 May 2018[13]

This week, the Senate was finally able to give some certainty to our local irrigators by securing an agreement to get this plan back on track. The vote to uphold the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism succeeded when Labor joined with us to defeat the Greens’ attempt to crush my irrigation communities from Griffith to Gol Gol. This means that work can continue on recovering an additional 450 gigalitres for environment projects, as required by the plan, but with an overriding protection that recovery of this water must be with neutral or improved socioeconomic outcomes.


I can assure every single constituent in my electorate that I will be watching this 450 gigalitre recovery process. It’s only up to 450 and it’s only with improved socioeconomic outcomes; in other words, no change from the existing legislation. I will be watching it very, very closely.


What the Greens and Labor don’t get, unless it suits them politically, is that regional Australia doesn’t want to play nasty political games; it just wants to get on with the job of delivering Australia’s fastest growing and most important export industry—agriculture.



Backing the call from irrigators in the mid-Murray to borrow stored environmental water to save their failing winter crops, I proposed was a short-term loan of up to 100GL from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH).

The proposal ran into a wall of bureaucracy between the Commonwealth and the states—environmentalists versus those who produce our food and fibre.

Federation Chamber, Grievance Debate, Farrer Electorate: Drought, 21 August 2018[14]

In Finley, at the heart of the Murray irrigation area, all the dryland wheat is going to die unless it receives 20 to 25 millimetres in the next fortnight. The dryland canola is already write off. Although more water is probably too late for the non-watered crops, it might help for irrigated rice, corn and cotton and for forage crops like millet and hay. The same producers warn that with water trading at a minimum of $350 to $360 per megalitre, buying water is becoming out of reach for most rice growers. In short, one of Australia most important domestic and export foods, if not its most important, is quickly becoming unviable.



Matters of Public Importance, Rural and Regional Australia, 18 October 2018[15]


If you want to represent the regions, you have to live in the regions. I’m not saying I take a single vote for granted in my electorate of Farrer, and I know my colleagues don’t in their electorates. If you don’t know your rural and regional member of parliament—who they are, their face, their reputation—and don’t have a sense of what they do then that member of parliament probably isn’t doing a good job. You know you can’t get away with it in regional Australia. That’s why we work so hard: because we love what we do; we love the people we represent.



Federation Chamber, Constituency Statements, Farrer Electorate: Drought, 4 December 2018[16]

In August this year I pleaded for common sense in water management ahead of the intensifying drought, backing the call from irrigators in the mid-Murray to borrow stored environmental water to save their failing winter crops. At that time, we had a small window to prevent some of the carnage. The proposal was a short-term loan of up to 100 gigalitres in water from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.


This pitch was supported by many and ridiculed by some. Perhaps inevitably, it ran into a wall of bureaucracy between the Commonwealth and the states – environmentalists versus those who produce our food and fibre.

Murray–Darling Basin Ministers meet in Melbourne, 14 December 2018[17]

The Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council agreed on ‘next steps’ in progressing the Basin Plan. The agreements secured at the meeting by all Basin States and the Commonwealth will ensure fair a and balanced way forward for the Murray Darling Basin Plan including;

  • adoption of socio-economic criteria for all projects that could contribute to the 450 gigalitres of additional water recovery above the Plan’s 2,750 GL target
  • agreement that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will lead urgent work to address River Murray delivery challenges
  • agreement on funding to allow states to get on with delivering vital environmental offset projects.Wrote to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources;My view: The issue of losses must be confronted. It is patently unfair that users downstream effectively have their water ‘delivered’ to them with the cost in transmission paid for by us.  FEBRUARY 2019 …there’s no argument that this one is shaping up to be the worst. We know that the basin is the lifeblood of so many of the communities in the New South Wales Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. This area is the food bowl of our nation.The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is meant to be about governments working with the people to make sure that farmers and regions are viable and sustainable, the sorts of things that the Future Drought Fund Bill is going to do. But the circumstances in my electorate are not happy. There is a water allocation crisis and the use of environmental water has left many angry and frustrated. When we see environmental water used to good effect, there’s a positive return to everyone—we love it—but that has been lacking. What is needed is a stronger and more meaningful engagement with communities, with a focus on improving the plan and reflecting on how it might better look after our needs, and that means for everyone in every community in the basin, and the environment as well.
  • Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018, Second Reading, 20 February 2018[18]
  • We must change the rules about how water is managed within and between valleys, above and below the Barmah Choke and between the environment and operational use. The States are well placed to lead this work.
  • By far the biggest problem we face in the Southern Murray Darling Basin is the current zero allocation for general security irrigators. The drought is contributing to this but so is the high price of temporary water, new plantings that were never envisaged, a confusing water market and rules within the Plan that do not allow flexibility between the environment and operational use.
  • JANUARY 2019



[1] House of Representatives, Water Amendment Bill 2015, Second Reading, 9 September 2015


[2] House of Representatives, Federation Chamber, Constituency Statement, 3 December 2015 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/9739759a-c55b-417a-aa76-1072aaf7e717/0309/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[3]Snowy borrow – Murray Irrigation negotiates water sharing scheme’, Deniliquin Pastoral Times, 16 February 2016, page 1.

[4] House of Representatives, Water Legislation Amendment (Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2016, Second Reading Speech, 9 November 2016 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/e089c8c3-75b7-4858-80ac-58b4e4c6e749/0042/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[5] ‘Big tax break – Company welcomes $6.36 mil. Windfall’, Deniliquin Pastoral Times, 20 December 2016, page 1.

[6] House of Representatives, Constituency Statement, 9 February 2017 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/e5ff85d2-b96e-4e0e-8227-2131e40beaf7/0214/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[7] House of Representatives, Adjournment; Murray Darling Basin Plan, 30 March 2017 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/7cca2e10-1f9f-4c32-8a4a-59267d7d13e5/0330/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[8] House of Representatives, Statements by Members, Rice Industry, 28 March 2017


[9] House of Representatives, Matters of Public Importance, Murray Darling Basin, 9 August 2017 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/5450bb89-40c1-40d0-b9d7-ce7194184e98/0116/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[10] The Border Mail, Sussan Ley Slams New Report, Backs Irrigators, January 2018 https://www.bordermail.com.au/story/5190472/sussan-ley-slams-new-report-backs-irrigators/#slide=1

[11] House of Representatives, Federation Chamber, Adjournment, Murray Darling Basin, 8 February 2018


[12] House of Representatives, Statements by Members, Murray Darling Basin (Disallowance), 15 February 2018 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/55ca705c-f4c5-4a16-a7f5-47295e740c6e/0081/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[13] House of Representatives, Federation Chamber, Constituency Statements, Murray Darling Basin Plan, 10 May 2018 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/67aa916e-a0c1-4a4b-a23b-98660dd7d5e3/0217/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[14] House of Representatives, Federation Chamber, Grievance Debate, Farrer Electorate: Drought, 21 August 2018 https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Hansard_Display?bid=chamber/hansardr/e58f72a8-6e2f-4fb3-838f-055a62f31c2c/&sid=0198

[15] House of Representatives, Matters of Public Importance, Rural and Regional Australia, 18 October 2018


[16] House of Representatives, Federation Chamber, Constituency Statements, Farrer Electorate: Drought, 4 December 2018 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/94aec17b-432c-4e5b-80ed-7c316c83ad31/0182/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[17] Murray Darling Basin Authority, Ministerial Council Meeting, 14 December 2018 https://www.mdba.gov.au/media/mr/murray-darling-basin-ministers-meet-melbourne

[18] House of Representatives, Bills, Future Drought Fund Bill 2018, Second Reading, 20 February 2018