Water Minister Penny Wong has today described court action threatened by the South Australian Rann Government as hypothetical, but was unable to indicate action being taken to prevent it, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
“Senator Wong today agreed that ideally states would be working together cooperatively and that an open water market would be in the best interests of the Murray-Darling river system,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“However, she today described the question of Mr Rann’s proposed court action against Victoria’s cap on water trades as ‘a hypothetical until any such action is taken.’
“If the Water Minister believes High Court action is hypothetical, presumably she is not resigned to it taking place at great cost to the taxpayer and should be working furiously behind the scenes to see the need for it avoided.
“When asked what action the Rudd Government was taking to try and reach agreement between the states without such court action however, Senator Wong was unable to indicate anything more than abolition of the cap being listed as a COAG agenda item.
“This is a totally inadequate response from the Rudd Government, and demonstrates a continued lack of leadership and action on the Murray. Our desperate and dying river system needs action and leadership, not words and legal bills.
“By describing Premier Rann’s much hyped legal action as hypothetical, Senator Wong has demonstrated that she is clearly treating this as a political stunt by Mike Rann as against anything that might make a real difference to the health of the river.
“Senator Wong seems happy to let the Labor States play politics with the Murray, rather than intervening and cracking together the skulls of those State Premiers who are jeopardising what little hope the river has left.
“Senator Wong has today all but confirmed that the cooperative federalism in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Reform is dead in the water, and that the Rudd Government will stand by as the states fight the matter out in costly legal battles.”