Water Minister Tony Burke should state clearly whether the Government expects to spend all of the amounts budgeted for water buybacks in this and future years, Coalition Murray-Darling Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows Mr Burke signalling changes to the Gillard Government’s buyback program despite having criticised the Coalition’s proposal to partially defer buybacks to rebuild flood and cyclone devastated communities without Labor’s new tax and allow for finalisation of a Basin Plan to help guide buybacks.
Mr Burke has reportedly told a Murray-Darling Basin forum in Dubbo, New South Wales, that tenders to be advertised tomorrow will be for smaller amounts than previously planned to avoid distorting the water market.
“The difference, though, isn’t that it’s just a smaller amount of money … My intention now is that we will go on rolling tenders, that each month we are in the market in a modest way, rather than coming in boots and all, then disappearing from the market, and having whatever market distortionary impacts that can be seen to have.”
Tony Burke, ABC Radio, 18 February 2011
Just ten days ago, Mr Burke appeared to be advocating maintaining the Government’s ‘boots and all’ approach:
“The best time for communities to make a transition away from over-allocation is when there is substantial water in the system.”
Tony Burke, media release, 8 February 2011
“Is Mr Burke shifting ground by stealth towards the Coalition’s position?” Senator Birmingham asked today.
“Or does he expect to maintain the Government’s planned level of buybacks through smaller tenders, and is simply acknowledging the adverse impact in parts of the Basin of the Government’s sizeable but ad hoc, non-strategic purchases to date?”