SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  This is a classic re-announcement timed to coincide with the Victorian state election. This $1 billion was first announced in July 2008 by Kevin Rudd, and here we have Julia Gillard and John Brumby fronting up and re-announcing it now, just weeks away from the Victorian state poll.
That makes me pretty cynical. It says to me that this announcement is probably more about helping John Brumby and the Labor Party than it is about helping the River Murray or Victorian farmers.
JOURNALIST: So this is not new money at all?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This is not new money at all. There’s $1 billion that’s been on the table for more than two years. Labor has not managed to do anything with it. Now, just weeks away from the Victorian election, they re-announce it and expect to somehow win plaudits for it. They should be ashamed at the fact they haven’t been able to progress these projects faster, quicker, and that’s the reason that the Murray-Darling’s in such crisis at present.
JOURNALIST: So obviously [unclear] before the Victorian state election, there’s no doubt in your mind that would be the thing that’s driving this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s a cynical, cynical, cynical ploy timed right before the Victorian state election to re-announce $1 billion that has been sitting on the table for more than two years with nothing happening to it.
JOURNALIST: Should the Government be doing more to help farmers? Obviously it’s not new money even to Victorian farmers, should everybody be getting more help?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The number one criticism the Opposition’s had of the Labor Party is it’s not been progressing these water saving infrastructure projects. These projects are critical for fixing the Murray-Darling, and doing so with win-win outcomes that allow farmers to stay on the land and return water to the environment, but we should have seen much more action on these projects. Instead, we’re just seeing classic announcement and re-announcement rather than actual works on the ground. Our main criticism would be to say to the Labor Party that Murray-Darling reform is more than talk, it actually involves action, and they need to get on with these projects right across the system in every state to return some water to the environment.
JOURNALIST: In essence then, is this a form of trickery to Victorian farmers, trying to trick them into thinking this is new money and to buy their vote?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well it looks extremely cynical to me that they would come out weeks away from the Victorian election, re-announce money that they haven’t been able to do anything with for two years. Clearly they’re hoping it will win some votes. I would hope that Victorians can see through it, can see that this is just cynical politics at its best and can recognise that Murray-Darling reform takes a real commitment – commitment to action, not just a commitment to announcements.