0116 GMT February 20, 2019
The Australian Academy of Science welcomed the opportunity to prepare the report by February 10 in time for Shorten to present it to Parliament in its first week back, smh.com.au wrote.
It's understood academy members had themselves been pushing for an urgent investigation into a fish kill on the Darling near Menindee Lakes that left as many as one million fish dead earlier this month.
The rapid-fire study is expected to summarize existing research — including from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority — but won't call on federal and state government scientists to avoid placing them in the awkward position of criticizing policy.
John Shine, the academy's president, welcomed Labor's approach, and said work would begin immediately, including consulting other academies.
“The fish kill is a multifactorial issue, and the multidisciplinary panel of experts the Academy of Science will assemble will be knowledgeable across a range of matters," Shine said.
“A commitment to using science from independent expert sources to inform policy decisions is crucial for effective decision making in Australia."
In his letter to the academy, obtained by the Herald, Shorten said, the Murray-Darling was "a critically important river system in Australia, sustaining life for countless native plant and animal species, as well as supporting our important agricultural industries".
"If we are to be responsible custodians of our country, we must restore the rivers to health, and we cannot do this without drawing on scientific experts," he said, adding that he would make the findings public.
While the fish kills will be one focus of the report, Shorten also asked the academy to study "whether water diversions and/or water management practices in the Murray-Darling system have caused or exacerbated the scale of this disaster".