Senator Joyce and Senator Birmingham called on the Government to refocus its efforts on the Murray-Darling following the resignation of Rob Freeman, CEO of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
“We all know that the Government has completely mishandled this process from day one,” said Senator Joyce today.
“It is extremely distressing for all involved in the Murray-Darling Basin to see a process that is inept, confounded and out-of-control.
“In less than six months, half of the board has gone from one of the Government’s most important economic and environmental bodies.
“There is no confidence in a program that has started virtual riots around the Murray-Darling Basin. There is no confidence in a Government that refuses to take part in a whether the Water Act can equally consider economic, environmental and social factors. There is no confidence when senior legal minds and senior Government bureaucrats line up one behind the other to tell the Government they have got it wrong, but still the Government refuses to listen.
“The Government should take the chance now to change tack and seriously engage with the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Committee and make sure that the Water Act can provide the equal balance between economic, social and environmental factors that we have all promised. They have the opportunity next Wednesday when its first hearings will be held.”
Senator Birmingham said the latest resignation was yet another setback for a reform process in disarray.
“The Government’s mishandling of Murray-Darling Basin reform sees it already horribly behind schedule and weak on community confidence,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The Authority Chief Executive’s resignation will only increase the difficulty for the Government to meet its own timelines, and it is regrettable that the Government’s mistakes to date mean the reform process is being handed over in such an uncertain state.
“The Minister must immediately move to ensure certainty in the process going forward, and should outline how Mr Freeman’s departure will impact on the Government’s capacity to meet existing timeframes.”
Senators Joyce and Birmingham extend their best wishes to Mr Freeman and his family now and into the future.