Tony Burke and Julia Gillard want to send a parliamentary committee to talk to communities that they do not have the courage to face.
Their move today highlights the Government’s lack of response to the Authority’s Draft Plan Guide and the failure of Labor’s policies to date and shows it now wants to buckpass the responsibility for the fallout.
It is welcome that the Government now recognises the paucity of socio-economic analysis in the Guide?, but begs the question of what they’ve been doing in the three years since the Water Act was passed.
Today’s announcement to refer the social impact of the plan to a parliamentary committee reinforces the Coalition’s call for referral to the Productivity Commission, and we again urge the Government to refer these issues to the Productivity Commission without delay.
It is important that this process receives expert opinion – a Parliamentary inquiry risks being little more than another round of consultations without expert advice.
Today’s announcement represents a series of backflips from Labor:
·         The reference to the Committee by Minister Crean is in stark contrast to Minister Burke’s statement only yesterday that he would not be part of a process “that’s being conducted by an independent authority” and on 8 October that “there’s an independent process. I will not be shouting directions from the sidelines at an independent authority.”?
·         The Prime Minister committed during the election campaign to implementing whatever the Authority recommended. Is the Government now backing away from this commitment and accepting the Coalition’s view that only a good plan should be implemented? If the Government is still committed to implementing whatever the Authority recommended, what is the point of the inquiry?
This parliamentary inquiry must offer genuine consultation and not just be another means of deferral and delay, which will only bring about more pain for both the river and river communities.
It up to Labor to prove that this will be the “real consultation” that Mr Burke promised Parliament only two weeks ago. The Coalition notes that new inquiry won’t report until the end of April, conveniently just after the 26 March New South Wales state election, and well clear of Victoria’s November election.
Reform is difficult and Labor continues to show they are incapable of managing a reform agenda. 
Delivering sustainable rivers with sustainable communities is too important for Labor to abandon.