Murray-Darling Basin reform has slowed to a snail’s pace under Labor, according to evidence given in Senate Estimates today under questioning from Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham.
Officials have today confirmed that the Gillard Government:
· still hasn’t signed off on an Intergovernmental Agreement with Basin states, despite more than 25 drafts having been prepared and indications at February’s Senate Estimates that it was hoped to be completed ‘soon’; and
· still hasn’t finalised a Water Recovery Strategy despite releasing a draft last November and having already recovered nearly 60 per cent of water without a strategy in place.
“Having soaked up adulation for finalising the Basin Plan, Labor appears to have dumped its actual implementation in the ‘too hard’ basket,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“With newspaper headlines and TV cameras focused on the campaign ahead, Labor has dropped the ball on securing vital implementation agreements.”
National Water Commission chief executive James Cameron today highlighted the importance of these agreements and his frustration with Labor’s failure to deliver, stating:
“… certainly a clearer understanding of the agreements and implementation strategies from the various parties would in an ideal situation be required…”
“Having already chronically under-invested in water-saving infrastructure, Labor has also slashed buybacks for 2013-14 to their lowest level since 2007,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Deferring more than $100 million in budgeted spending to the back end of this program risks creating a spike in the water market, forcing prices higher and creating budgetary pressures beyond the forward estimates.
“Adding insult to injury, the SA Labor Government which has treated reform as a platform for sanctimonious self-promotion has failed to reinstate funding it hypocritically cut for the MurrayDarling Basin Authority to deliver important river programs.
“Labor talks big on Murray reform, but it has yet again gone to water.
“With a terrible record including the likes of ‘Pink Batts’, aborted media reform and censorship and the economically damaging carbon tax, Labor can’t be trusted to implement Murray-Darling Basin reform.”