Federal and State Labor Water Ministers must urgently clarify the status of federal funding for Adelaide’s desalination plant, Coalition Murray Darling Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows South Australian Minister Paul Caica’s insistence, contrary to Federal Minister Penny Wong’s public statements, that a federal condition to reduce reliance on the River Murray doesn’t mean a reduced draw on the River Murray.
More than a year after announcing the funding as part of the 2009 budget, Penny Wong recently admitted that she and the Rann Government were still in dispute over the conditions:
“The offer of $228 million to the SA Government included a requirement to reduce Adelaide’s reliance on the Murray … Not only does this mean that Adelaide has a more secure supply of water, it also means more water is available for the environment so the Lower Lakes can have a healthier future. The precise arrangements are yet to be finalised.”
Penny Wong, Sunday Mail, 20 June 2010
Extraordinarily, her SA counterpart was still insisting last week that reduced reliance could be achieved without reducing water taken from the Murray, and that federal funding was in no doubt:
“… the opposition leader made some comment about the commitment of the federal government with respect to the $228 million. That commitment still exists and that has been built into the prices as well … There is no threat to the $228 million. It was not about reducing our draw, as was intimated by the Leader of the Opposition. It was about reducing our reliance on the River Murray.”
Paul Caica, House of Assembly Hansard, 22 July 2010
“It is imperative that Caica and Wong clarify before the 21 August election the status of this funding, what it will mean for water taken from the Murray and what it will mean for water prices,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“South Australians have a right to know before casting their votes whether $228 million of money committed on a whim by one Labor government to anther Labor government is going to save so much as a drop of River Murray water.
“While Penny Wong and Paul Caica play cute with the meaning of the word reliance, the question is whether we can rely on them to do the right thing by the Murray and South Australian water users.”