Australians angry at the bungling of water reform deserve to know the full story surrounding legal advice over preparation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
A Freedom of Information application by Senator Birmingham for legal advice, to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, relating to the weighting of economic, social and environmental considerations in preparing the Basin Plan has been refused.
Conflicting legal advice was central to a protracted dispute with water Minister Tony Burke that led to Mike Taylor last month announcing he would retire as Authority Chair at the end of this month. Despite seven weeks having now passed, Mr Burke is yet to announce Mr Taylor’s replacement.
“Thanks to Mike Taylor, everyone knows there’s conflicting advice, yet the Government insists on keeping one half of the story secret,” Senator Birmingham said.
“If it was good enough for Tony Burke last October to release his handpicked advice to suit his own purpose, why not release all of it?   It shouldn’t even need a Freedom of Information application.
“All stakeholders, from irrigators and Basin communities to environmental groups, deserve to be fully informed, not selectively informed.
“Why is the Government hiding what we know is advice conflicting with what has been released?
“The Gillard Government’s failure to share the full story with Basin communities and other Australians adds to an already mismanaged Basin reform process running well off the rails on Labor’s watch.
“The Government continues to spend ever more on buying back water licences of various security levels for questionable benefit while failing to progress water saving infrastructure upgrades and is already breaking promises of no delays to the Basin Plan timetable.
“Releasing all legal advice might at least go some way towards restoring confidence in the integrity of the Basin Plan preparation process.”