Limited measures to help the Murray-Darling Basin passed as part of an overall package plunging Australian taxpayers into crippling debt for years to come are a double disappointment, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
“The small steps secured today towards providing relief for the Murray-Darling are welcome, given that the system needs all the help we can provide,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“However, the measures remain disappointing both by comparison to what the Murray-Darling actually needs, and because they’ve only been secured as part of such a financially irresponsible overall package burdening future generations of taxpayers.
“What has been secured through backroom deals today is far from enough to provide the urgent and long-term relief required for the desperate Murray.
“The biggest disappointment is the failure to fast-track infrastructure works that would assist in regional economic development, allow farmers and irrigators to remain on their land and also return increased flows to the Murray-Darling system.
“The re-engineering of the Menindee Lakes in New South Wales, for example, would have the potential to return up to 200 gigalitres of water to environmental flows yet there is nothing in the package passed today to bring this any closer to happening.
“This deal also fails to deliver any temporary purchases of real water allocations, rather than empty paper licences, for immediate assistance to the Murray’s Lower Lakes.
“Measures passed today are mainly focused on the slow demise of irrigation communities, and could have been much better targeted just as the overall spending package should have been better targeted.
“That these small steps for the Murray-Darling have been taken as we are saddled with a $200 billion debt makes today a very dark day indeed for Australian taxpayers.
“This Friday the 13th will go down as Debt Day for generations of Australians to come.”