LEON BYNER: Just taking you back a little bit. We established when I say ‘we’, the Government under the suggestion of everybody who thought that we need this independent group of people that would decide the fate of water and how it ought to be used, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, they went in and did a Plan … didn’t allow us to see it during the election. After the election when the Plan came out Tony Burke, who was the Water Minister, went to the Water Act and found that the actual parameters of discussion were wrong in that they had to include not just the environment and remember the Murray-Darling Basin Authority was in fact more an environmental organisation and they stated that to the media when their report was released so the Water Act says ‘no, no, no you’ve got to give the same amount of importance not just to the environment but to social and economic factors’. Well, it appears the head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has chucked it in … Simon, when did you find out about this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … I found out about this just a little earlier this morning, Leon … I received a message that Mr Taylor had resigned. Mr Taylor has put out a two-page statement surrounding his resignation … it is … fired at Tony Burke and the Government … really plunges the whole process of Murray-Darling reform into crisis, which is bad news for everybody … all this does is create more uncertainty, more delays and a real void of leadership in the process … very clearly Mr Taylor appears to have said that he thinks, and the Authority’s legal advice is such, that Minister Burke’s interpretation of the Water Act is wrong … what we have is a real stand off at 20 paces with legal advice on interpreting the Water Act … Tony Burke needs to come out today and state just how he’s going to get this right, how he is going to achieve a balanced outcome, but just how he’s going to get the process back on the right track, whether the Act is going to be able to achieve the type of balanced outcome that everybody is looking for or whether Mr Taylor is right and that it does lean in one particular direction.
LEON BYNER: … there’s another issue too … that’s something that we all need to be keeping in mind. We’ve just had some very major flooding events … a lot of extra water from Victoria and New South Wales is going to flow down the Murray … that’s going to mean that when we were putting this Murray-Darling Authority together and they did their investigation the environment on which they were acting was very different to what it is now … that doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate issues of over-allocation, of course there are, but I think this now throws the whole business of allocations up in the air and not only that … the desalination plant, which is going to cost us an absolute fortune … can’t be shut down because it has to supply water. Now, Queensland have put in mothballs one of their desal plants because they’ve had generous rain … it appears that they’re not suffering any financial loss as a result … question I guess we have to ask is, why are we?