Julia Gillard is deliberately misleading Australians by claiming she wants to keep the Murray-Darling reform process on time.
Coalition Murray-Darling Basin spokesman, Senator Simon Birmingham, says the Prime Minister knows full well that delays imposed by her government mean the reform cannot and will not be delivered according to the initial timeline.
Speaking in Perth yesterday Ms Gillard said:
“I think we’ve got to keep on time and we’ve got to deal with the water reforms we need for the Murray-Darling.”
However, Senator Birmingham said that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has already advised the Gillard Government that current timelines cannot be met.
“Documents released by the MDBA under Freedom of Information laws make it clear that agreed timelines, where the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is finalised this year and complying state water plans start to take effect in 2014, now cannot be met” Senator Birmingham said.
“The MDBA had planned to release the draft Basin Plan last month, but Julia Gillard and Water Minister Tony Burke have delayed that release until well after the House of Representatives inquiry into water reform chaired by Tony Windsor reports on 31 May this year.
In advice to Mr Burke, Mike Taylor, who resigned last month as MDBA Chair, stated that “… given the processes prescribed in the Act, the proposed Basin Plan must be released in early 2011 at the very latest”. Even this timeline is described as a “challenging deadline”.
The MDBA says finalisation of the draft plan “… could take in the order of 40-50 weeks, if there’s a reasonable level of agreement to the Plan, and much longer if there is significant disagreement at the Ministerial Council level”.
“The Basin Plan will not be finalised, on the MDBA’s own advice, until the second half of 2012 at best, putting the whole reform agenda at least a year behind schedule,” Senator Birmingham said.
“If she’s properly briefed then Julia Gillard should know that her promise to keep Murray-Darling reform on time is impossible to meet. Yet she continues to knowingly mislead Australians.
“Rather than misleading Australians, playing with the lives of those who depend on the Basin for a living and jeopardising achievement of a sustainable management plan, the Prime Minister should front up to the fact that her government needs to get this trouble plagued reform back on track.”