The 450GL: fact and fiction
7 June 2018
The 450GL will only be delivered with neutral or positive social and economic outcomes.
Unfortunately it's necessary to correct misleading assertions regarding the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
It is rubbish to say an agreement between the Federal Government and Opposition "ties funding for the 605 GL to the delivery of 450 GL". The 450 and 605 have always been part of the same mechanism (the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism) and effectively tied together. Any attempt to suggest the two only became married during a recent agreement between the Government and Opposition is false and misleading.
The Basin Plan (2012) incorporated a specific chapter on the SDL adjustment mechanism. Section 7.09(e) states:
"The easing or removal of constraints and the addition of 450GL per year of environmental water above the 2750GL benchmark conditions of development, under the Commonwealth's program, allow the enhanced environmental outcomes to be pursued as compared to the benchmark environmental outcomes".
Note 1 of Part 2 the Basin Plan (to the above paragraph) states:
"The Commonwealth Program to ease or remove capacity constraints and deliver 450GL of additional environmental water is to improve the environmental outcomes beyond those achievable under the 2750GL benchmark by a further 450GL, and thus pursue the environmental outcomes set out in schedule 5 that reflect the results of the 3200GL per year modelling."
This was reaffirmed by first Ministers in the paper to COAG in 2017. The agreed report by the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council to the Council of Australian Governments – Implementing the Basin Plan – (the COAG Plan), page 8, states:
"Basin Governments are also committed to working collaboratively on the best pathway for efficiency measures to recover an additional 450GL by 2024, consistent with the Basin Plan legal requirements to achieve neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.
"Early 2018 – Develop and implement an approach to achieve efficiency measures measures with neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes, informed by the results of the independent analysis."
Further, the Ministerial Council communique of 17 March 2017 stated:
"Ministers agreed to a plan to present to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) that provides credible and balanced possible pathways to implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan package agreed in 2012, including:… efficiency measures to recover an additional 450 GL by 2024, consistent with the Basin Plan legal requirement to achieve neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes."
The Council of Australian Governments endorsed Implementing the Basin Plan in 2017:
"Basin governments are also committed to working collaboratively on the best pathway for efficiency measures to recover an additional 450 GL by 2024, consistent with the Basin Plan legal requirements to achieve neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes."
In August 2012, a further Ministerial Council Notice to the MDBA agreed by all jurisdictions that:
"any additional water recovery for the purpose of increasing the SDL reduction… would …. come from additional investments that achieve a neutral or better impact on production for participating farms, or such other arrangements as are agreed with the relevant state that achieve socio-economic neutrality".
It's also untrue to claim the agreement is "increasing the Basin Plan environmental targets from 2,750 GL to 3200 GL". First, it's not actually 3200GL, it's environmental outcomes equivalent to 3200GL. Secondly, the outcomes of the Plan agreed in 2012 were always a 3200 equivalent plan including 450GL for the environment and this has not changed.
I'll say it one more time: The 450GL will only be delivered with neutral or positive social and economic outcomes.