The Rudd Government today has a key opportunity to take a meaningful stand in support of the Murray-Darling Basin, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Debate in the Senate commences on the Water Amendment Bill 2008 today, with Coalition Senators to move key amendments to further protect the river and achieve greater water savings more quickly, including through the prevention of the controversial Melbourne pipeline.
“Whilst progress on national water reforms has been long overdue, and is therefore most welcome, there remain critical flaws with Labor’s approach,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Key among these flaws is the Rudd Government’s preparedness to allow the Victorian Labor Government’s Sugarloaf or ‘North-South’ pipeline to extract an extra 75 gigalitres a year from the Murray-Darling system.
“A day after the CSIRO released its major study of the Basin, predicting the Murray mouth at Goolwa will in future be closed for even more than the current 40 per cent of the time, it seems madness for Water Minister Penny Wong to continue defending this pipeline.”
“The Coalition is attempting not only to stop the Brumby Government’s plans to extract an extra 75 gigalitres a year, but also to draw a line in the sand that will stop any extractions to additional urban centres outside the Basin.
“It is time we took a clear stand against any new cities becoming reliant on the Murray. That’s a principle I hope the Senate will support.”
Senator Birmingham will move amendments, on behalf of the Coalition, in relation to stopping the ‘North-South’ pipeline, as well as to provide further support for key communities in the Basin, including at least $50 million assistance for the Lower Lakes region.
Coalition Senators will also move for faster spending on infrastructure necessary to ‘replumb’ the Basin, saving billions of litres of water annually.
“The Rudd Government is dragging its heels on water infrastructure projects, refusing to commit to a timeframe for the rollout of $5.8 billion in infrastructure investment funds.
“Irrigators and other primary producers are ready to make the savings and share the water with the environment. But they are simply not getting the support they need to make these savings.”