Water Minister Tony Burke has signalled his intention to ignore a key recommendation of a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry on Murray-Darling Basin reform, Coalition Murray-Darling Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows the Murray-Darling Basin Authority today further delaying until at least mid-October the release of its proposed Basin Plan.
The parliamentary inquiry chaired by Independent MP Tony Windsor, among findings supported by both sides of politics, recommended in June:
“that the Commonwealth Government immediately cease all non-strategic water purchase in the Murray-Darling Basin and take a strategic approach to water purchases that prioritises the lowest possible impact in communities.”
The report further stated that:
The Committee heard a clear and consistent message from Basin communities that the buyback program needs to be strategic for two reasons: firstly, to limit the impact of purchases on irrigation districts and the irrigators that remain; and secondly to ensure that water is bought in the best location to meet environmental objectives
However, it seems Minister Burke has today run out of patience:
“I don’t think we can continue to delay getting back into the water market and so I’ll be talking to the Department today about working out how quickly we can get back into the buyback of water … I was … intending to announce the next round of buybacks once we had the draft, which if we were waiting for August or something like that would’ve been a reasonable wait. Now that that’s been pushed out further I just don’t think we can hold off…”
            Tony Burke, 891 ABC Adelaide, 3 August 2011
“Clearly, Tony Burke is now giving Tony Windsor and other inquiry committee members the bird on buybacks,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Mr Burke must explain to anxious Basin communities and Australian taxpayers how it is at all strategic to spend millions more on water buybacks prior to knowing exactly where the proposed Basin Plan says water is needed, how much is needed or what type of water entitlements are needed.
“Once again Labor seems to be happy to spend money first and worry later about whether it was effective or not.”