South Australia’s Labor Government didn’t place enough importance on the future of the Murray to accept an invitation to embed staff with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
Offers from the Authority, including an offer to pay all costs, and refusals from the Labor State Government have been revealed in documents* provided to Senator Birmingham under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.
An offer to embed staff had clearly been made in the first half of 2011, but was declined in a letter of 17 June 2011 from SA Water Minister Paul Caica to MDBA Chair Craig Knowles:
“We may choose to take up your offer of embedding a State Government staff member with the Authority at a later time.”
A further offer was made by letter of 10 August 2011 from Mr Knowles to Mr Caica:
“… I invite your officials to consider possible staff secondments to the Authority to assist with the draft Basin Plan. Secondments are an important way of building partnerships and for the draft Basin Plan to benefit fully from the territory and states’ experience and expertise. The Authority would meet the costs of the secondment.”
That offer was formally refused by letter of 23 September 2011 from Mr Caica to Mr Knowles:
“… the intensive nature of this consultation process is placing a significant draw on our resources. Accordingly, your invitation of providing staff secondments to the Authority to assist with the proposed Basin Plan is not possible in the current circumstances.”
“South Australia has the most to gain from a good Basin Plan, so it beggars belief that the Labor State Government didn’t jump at opportunities to be involved in every possible step of decision making.
“This is all the more remarkable given all the complaining from the Weatherill Government about the draft Basin Plan including threatened High Court action that would surely be more of a drain on resources than simple staff secondments.
“As one of the harshest critics of the draft Plan, the South Australian Labor Government should now explain why it wasn’t paying more attention during its preparation or showing enough interest to be more involved.
“Labor’s commitments to the Murray seem to be more rhetoric than reality.”
*see below