TONY PILKINGTON: The Prime Minister expected to make an announcement today whereby a major commitment of buying back all of the water required to save our River Murray … Simon Birmingham …
KEITH CONLON: …you rang and obviously you know the Prime Minister’s coming in?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, certainly do … very concerned looking at the announcement in The Advertiser today. This is a press release not a policy; there’s no detail, there’s no costing. It really is treating South Australians and the Murray issue with contempt if all the Labor Party are going to offer in this election campaign is a vague promise for something after 2014, after the next election not just this one, rather than some sort of detailed policy for the future on the Murray, which I can certainly commit that Tony Abbott will be releasing in the coming days … I promise you that it’ll happen soon, that it has a plan for action and that it details the type of action that we will take in the next three years not some time after 2014.
KEITH CONLON: But won’t you be in the same bind … or are you going to pre-empt the independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority report?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it’s Julia Gillard who’s pre-empting the report by signing up to it allegedly sight unseen.
KEITH CONLON: She’s not pre-empting it, she’s agreeing with the findings presumably whether she knows them or not. Are you going to say you’re going to come out with a policy which might cut across its findings which we won’t know til after the election?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Keith, our policy will have the flexibility to respond to the findings of the report. But you raise a very valid point there; has Julia Gillard or Penny Wong seen the draft Murray Darling Basin report or the proposed sustainable limits within it? If they have seen them then they’ve compromised the independence of that Authority and they need to make sure that they’re released to the Opposition and to everybody else so that we can all consider whether they’re good recommendations or bad recommendations. If she hasn’t seen them then she’s got absolutely no idea what she’s signing up to and it shows just how much this is a case of policy on the run by the Labor Party.
KEITH CONLON: Would you be happy to go in and get a look at the report on a confidential basis?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I would very much welcome a private briefing. We are concerned that Penny Wong has never confirmed that the deferral of the release of this report was not discussed with her. She’s never confirmed that there was no political involvement in deferring the release of this report. This is the most important document to be released relating to the Murray Darling in the last 100 years and the fact that it’s been hidden for the duration of this campaign and now we have the Prime Minister of the day promising to sign up to it without it being released and without anybody knowing what’s in it is just a remarkable turn of events.
KEITH CONLON: Thanks very much.