The Rudd Government continues to avoid taking immediate steps to provide immediate assistance to the Coorong and Lower Lakes, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
“Today’s announcement of a tender to purchase water entitlements in Queensland and northern New South Wales is welcome, but it will do little to address the immediate needs of the River Murray’s lower reaches,” Senator Birmingham said today.
The Environment Department last week revealed just what little real impact the initial $50 million buyback is having:
The 36 GL of entitlements recently purchased by the Australian Government … will be a source of water to the extent that allocations are made to it … Updated figures are that in 2008-09, based on current allocations, 1 GL of environmental water will be available in the southern connected Basin from current Australian Government purchased entitlements.
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, submission to the Senate inquiry into Water Management in the Coorong and Lower Lakes
“Given only 1 gigalitre (GL) from the 36 GL in already purchased entitlements will reach the Lower Lakes and Coorong this year, the buyback in the northern Basin is unlikely to provide the real and immediate dividends they so desperately need.
“It is disappointing that the Government seems to have talked itself out of any short-term measures being possible, effectively ruling out all of the options canvassed in their own submission to the current Senate inquiry.
“In addition to reconsidering options for immediate flows into the Lower Lakes, Senator Wong must explain:
·         why the Rudd Government is refusing to consider immediate financial assistance for communities throughout the Basin – from irrigators to tourism operators and others whose livelihoods depend on the health of the river
·         why the Rudd Government is not bringing forward funding for improvements to irrigation infrastructure to provide tangible savings to evaporation and leakage from system; and
·         why the Rudd Government will be helping the Victorian Government rip out an additional 75 to 110 gigalitres from the Murray-Darling Basin every year through the proposed North-South Pipeline.
“Measures such as the buyback announced today are important for the Murray-Darling Basin’s long-term health, but the Lower Lakes and Coorong in particular need real and immediate results just to stay on life support.”