LEON BYNER: Now, New South Wales and other states’ environmental groups have joined together and they’ve got some legal advice and they’re saying that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s draft Plan is illegal. The advice says the Plan contravenes the federal Water Act because it prioritises social and economic impact instead of the river’s long term health. It also highlights the Authority’s decision to double groundwater use and the Plan’s alleged failure to consider the impacts on downstream users, claiming there are illegal acts which would be overturned by a court if they’re challenged, so where on earth do we go?
LEON BYNER: Now, the Coalition’s Murray spokesperson is Simon Birmingham. Simon, what’s your reaction to the environmentalists’ legal advice saying the Plan’s illegal?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, good morning, Leon and listeners. Leon, it’s hardly surprising that we do have this situation, as Tony Burke has said, where environmental groups on one hand argue that there are legal problems with the Plan and there’s not enough water going to the environment whilst on the other side of the ledger we have the irrigator groups arguing that there are legal problems with the Water Act and there’s too much water coming from irrigation so I’m not surprised that we have, in a sense, the two competing groups of stakeholders here coming at the problem from opposite positions and both having concerns about it and we do need to sensibly address this reform and we do need to try to get an outcome and it’s something the Howard Government started in 2007 and I want to see the Murray-Darling fixed and nothing could be worse, I think, than to see decades more of uncertainty – for every river community, for every irrigator and for the environment – by going through lengthy legal battles and High Court challenges rather than just getting this matter resolved and that’s why I call on Tony Burke and the Federal Government to release the thousands of pages of legal advice they have about the operation of the Water Act and the development of this Basin Plan. Let’s end the uncertainty. Let’s stop this game where we have competing legal advice from all of these different stakeholders and let’s see what the Australian Government Solicitor says about the Water Act and whether we can deliver a fair, balanced Basin Plan based on the best possible science and evidence under the Water Act that we’ve got.