A last-minute handover of a key economic report will only create further doubt in the minds of stakeholders about the thoroughness of the Murray-Darling Basin reform process under the Gillard Government, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
It was revealed in Senate Estimates this morning, under questioning from Senator Birmingham, that the socioeconomic analysis conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics – Bureau of Rural Sciences (ABARE–BRS) was only provided to the Authority in its final form on the morning it released its Guide to the proposed Basin Plan.
“I am truly gobsmacked that such a key input to this critical report central to Murray-Darling Basin reform should only be completed and formally provided on the day of this Guide’s release,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Assurances that earlier data and detail was provided in advance to the Authority will do little to quell the significant concerns that exist in Basin communities about this process.”
The Authority also revealed this morning that it has not adjusted its timeline for progressing to the next stage and its Draft Plan, despite having commissioned a new study of social and economic impacts not due for completion until March.
“Labor appears to have botched the Basin reform process from day one.
“Basin communities will be rightly puzzled at the Authority ploughing ahead with its timetable seemingly without regard for its own new study or the parliamentary inquiry announced in desperation by the Government last week.
“Crucially, at the very core of Basin communities’ concerns and uncertainty, the Government is yet to reveal any hint of how it intends to achieve the cuts in water use being proposed by the Authority.
“Instead of just having closed door meetings with select irrigation groups in Canberra, today’s revelations heighten the need for Water Minister Tony Burke to actually get out into Basin communities and talk to the people most affected by this reform process.”