Labor’s blank cheque on water buybacks poses questions that Julia Gillard and Penny Wong are yet to answer.
Simon Birmingham, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin, asked “has anybody in the Government seen the draft Basin Plan to which Labor has unreservedly committed?”
“Julia Gillard has said she hasn’t seen the plan or what’s in it, but no similar statement has yet been forthcoming from Penny Wong,” Senator Birmingham said.
“If they have seen it, why won’t they release the Plan to the Opposition and the Australian community?
“If they haven’t seen it, how do they know the Basin Plan is a good plan for all of South Australia and all of the Murray Darling Basin?
“The Coalition will support a good plan, but not a bad plan. However, unlike Labor we want to see the plan first and foremost.
“Where are the costings? Where is the detail? Where are Labor’s policies?
“Labor is either signing up unreservedly to something it can’t know or understand, or is compromising the independence of the Murray Darling Basin Authority in a bid to play sectional interests against each other instead of working for the Basin’s overall best interests.”
Isobel Redmond, South Australian Leader of the Opposition, said that today’s announcement provides no more certainty about the long term health of the River Murray and Lower Lakes in SA.
“South Australians are sick and tired of Labor Governments both state and federal making grand announcements about the River Murray yet delivering nothing” Ms Redmond said.
“For Julia Gillard and Penny Wong to come to SA and make open cheque book promises about recommendations in the yet to be seen MDB Report shows little respect for South Australian communities whose livelihoods are at risk because of the dire state of the River Murray.”
“Is the Government committing to compensate all irrigators and licence holders for all additional flows to be achieved under the Basin Plan?” Senator Birmingham asked.
“Is there a change to the existing risk assignment principles for compensation? Will State Governments and/or irrigators still share in meeting buyback costs?
“By stating that water licence buybacks will continue beyond 2014 is Labor conceding that sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) will not be in place by 2014? Is this yet another delay?
“In relation to the agreement with New South Wales Government on water savings from Menindee Lakes infrastructure works an agreement still subject to a final feasibility assessment this only serves to highlight Labor’s 2007 election broken promises.
“This project was fully funded by the Howard Government in 2007 and in Labor’s 2007 election policy was at the very top of a list of Murray Darling projects*, but the sad fact is that not one bit of engineering works has been undertaken on the Menindee Lakes.”
*See page 12 of Labor’s national plan to tackle the water crisis, available at http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/library/partypol/170P6/upload_binary/170p62.pdf;fileType%3Dapplication%2Fpdf