By Tanya Plibersek Minister for the Environment and Water

25 July 2023






The Albanese Labor Government has received formal advice that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan cannot be delivered on time. 

This is a damning judgement of the previous Liberal-National Government which spent a decade sabotaging the Plan while leaving Basin communities unprepared for the next big dry. 

The Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, recently wrote to the head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, requesting an independent assessment of the status of the Plan.  

This report has shown there is no pathway to deliver the Plan on time. In fact, Australia is likely to fall around 750 GL short of the legislated targets. That’s the equivalent of 300,000 Olympic swimming pools, or 1.5 Sydney Harbours short.  


This doesn’t come as a surprise. The former Liberal-National Government waged a decade long guerrilla war against the Basin Plan. They attacked it in Opposition and then they sabotaged it when in government. 


Of the water that has been recovered for the Basin, more than 80 per cent was contracted under Labor Governments. That means less than 20 per cent of the water recovered occurred in the last decade under the Liberals and Nationals.   


Not only did the Liberals and Nationals not recover enough water, they shut down programs and they ignored advice from experts. They were irresponsible and short-sighted, and Basin communities are paying for it. 


In contrast, the Labor Government has been working from day one to get the Plan back on track.  

The Albanese Government has already delivered more towards the additional 450GL of water for the environment than the previous government did in nine years. 

The Government has responded to community concerns by holding widespread consultation, and has opened tender to recover 49GL of water to complete the ‘Bridging the Gap’ part of the Plan.

The Environment and Water Minister will continue to work with Basin ministers to seek agreement on a new phase to extend the deadlines and deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full.  


Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek: 

“Let me be clear – the Albanese Government is committed to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full, which includes the extra 450GL of water for the environment. I’ve said that from day one and I won’t budge. 

“But the truth is, no government can catch up on nine year’s sabotage in just two years. As the independent advice tells us, we have to extend the timeframes. That’s the reality of what we inherited. 

“The next terrible drought is knocking on the door. El Nino is coming back. Delivering this plan has to be a priority. 

“When the temperature gets hotter again, when the rain stops falling and the river stops flowing, we will seriously regret it if we don’t act now. 

“We don’t want Australians to wake up one day with a dead river system and find out their governments could’ve stopped it. 

"If we don’t prepare for those dry years, all Australians will suffer – risking our access to affordable food and water, with mass environmental collapse, dying native animals, choking fish, and intense pressure on river communities. 

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is our best chance to manage these challenges and to ensure a healthy and sustainable Basin for the communities, industry and environment that rely on it.”