MATTHEW ABRAHAM: … twitter.com/kevcorduroy where the news has flashed up while we were broadcasting that interview that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority… this is from ABC News, their Twitter feed… the Murray-Darling Basin Authority head, Mike Taylor, has resigned, and we’ve heard that … information from our newsroom as well.
DAVID BEVAN: This is the fella who’s running the Authority that had the job of deciding how much water had to be taken out of human use … chiefly irrigation … and put back into the river to save it and what he’s done is he’s issued a press statement. It’s very densely written and you’ve got to work your way through it to find out exactly what this guy has done. Well what he’s done is he’s said ‘I’m not going to do this any more’ and he’s highlighting, again you’ve got to read … it fairly closely, but he’s highlighting that … effectively the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been put in a very difficult position. It released its report and there’s been such a wave of protest over the recommendations that it’s become quite difficult to continue in that job.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: And effectively, as David said, … the bottom line is that they’ve got their own advice on how much they can compromise, I suppose, the minimum level of water required to restore the system’s [unclear] on social and economic grounds. Because they originally came out and said ‘well our brief was to look at the environment’ and the Government came back and said uh-uh because we’re now … a minority Government and we have rural and other Independents and Greens, we want you to look at social and economic impacts on communities. And they’ve sought advice on that in saying we can’t do that. I can’t do that. And this is … big news from Mike Taylor, Chair of the MDBA resigning. There’ll be more details in our bulletin in just a few minutes. But Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia … and Parliamentary Secretary Shadow for the Murray-Darling Basin … good morning …what do you read into this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well this is very bad timing for the process of water reform. It of course comes at a critical stage in between the release of an initial Guide for the future Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the release of a full draft of that proposed Plan. So it’s a critical stage of the Authority and it really plunges the process of Murray-Darling reform into a sense of crisis. I’ve only just received a copy of Mr Taylor’s statement, but in ploughing through that it certainly indicates that the spin that Water Minister Tony Burke put on the interpretation of the Water Act in Parliament just a month or two ago is in total conflict with the way Mr Taylor and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority interpret the Water Act. Now, Minister Burke needs to come clean, admit that there are some fundamental differences obviously between the Authority and himself here and try to get themselves back on the same page so they can get the process of water reform back on track.
DAVID BEVAN: Will you be looking for Mr Taylor, that is Michael Taylor, the Chair, to explain himself more fully?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Mr Taylor has fronted dozens of community meetings throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, he’s answered questions to thousands and thousands of angry and concerned people in Basin communities. Minister Burke has not done any of those things. Now Mr Taylor has [unclear] put out a detailed statement today; I would hope that he’ll take questions as well. But what’s going to be particularly important is that Tony Burke, the new Water Minister, needs to front up and answer just what this means for Basin reform, does it mean that the Government needs to reconsider aspects of the Water Act if it is to achieve a balanced outcome and
DAVID BEVAN: Okay, so our listeners know who we’re talking about here, is this the guy who had to turn up to all of those hostile meetings?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s right.
DAVID BEVAN: Right, so he’s the guy who we saw on our TV screens and people were baying for his blood …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, both Mike Taylor and Rob Freeman, Rob Freeman is the CEO of the Authority and Mike Taylor was the Chair, both of them fronted up to virtually all of the meetings and copped all of that flak and at least heard what the communities were saying. … I think many people will be rightly concerned that the people who went out to listen to their concerns and were charged with hopefully taking those concerns into account in drafting the report, one of those two key people is not going to be there to see it through.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham, thank you …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s a pleasure, guys.