On the first anniversary of the ambitious $10 billion plan to take national control of the Murray-Darling Basin, Senator Simon Birmingham has called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to get on with the job of resolving the management of the Murray before it’s too late.
Senator Birmingham said the stubborn and recalcitrant approach of the Victorian Labor Government had stalled the introduction of effective national management for too long and urged the Federal Labor Government to immediately take some action.
“Mr Rudd promised a new federalism and that the buck would stop with him,” Senator Birmingham said. ”It’s time he turned his attention to this critically important issue, brought to an end the last year of bickering and pulled Victorian Premier John Brumby into line.
“Initially the Prime Minister refused to put the Murray on the agenda for his first meeting with Labor Premiers. Now both he and his Water Minister have gone missing in action, while the environmental and economic toll of their inaction mounts.”
Senator Birmingham said the Prime Minister appeared to be ignoring commitments he gave South Australia’s then Acting Premier, Kevin Foley, at the December COAG meeting.
Following COAG Kevin Foley told Adelaide radio that the Prime Minister was “committed to himself taking both Premiers (Rann and Brumby) aside and dealing with the impasse”.
Mr Foley said that meeting would take place “in the New Year” with Mr Rudd organising it “as soon as he’s able to”.
“Well Mr Rudd, the clock is ticking and the first month of the New Year is almost over,” Senator Birmingham said, “so when is the promised meeting to fix management of the Murray going to happen?
“With rising levels of acidity and salinity threatening further environmental damage, while irrigators suffer increasing economic pain, fixing the mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Basin must be given immediate priority.
“Australia has allowed parochial state interests to mismanage our most important river system for more than 100 years. Now, one year after a solution was proposed, Mr Rudd must bring his Labor colleagues into line and ensure not another moment is wasted.”