Plans to rip out an extra 75 billion litres of water a year from the Murray-Darling Basin should be abandoned in light of revelations the stressed system might already not be able to meet basic human needs, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Senator Birmingham said it was astonishing that the Victorian and Australian Governments were persisting with the Sugarloaf or ‘North-South’ pipeline amid continuing record low inflows, and projections 2009-10 ‘critical human needs’ might not be met.
A Senate committee today begins an inquiry into the Water Amendment (Saving the Goulburn and Murray Rivers) Bill 2008 introduced by Senator Birmingham and designed to prevent the planned pipeline sending 75 billion litres of water a year to Melbourne.
“Suggestions the Murray already might not be able to supply enough water to meet critical human needs for this coming year only strengthen the case for alternatives to this pipeline being pursued,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Continuing record low inflows, and revelations the Murray River’s storage is about two-thirds of the level needed just to meet human demand, make it all the more astonishing that Victoria is going ahead with this pipeline and that the Rudd Government won’t stop it.
“I look forward to this Senate committee inquiry exploring the merits of stopping this pipeline, as the Bill I have introduced would do. Plugging this pipeline is emphatically good for both the environment and irrigators.
“It is profoundly regrettable that Labor has steadfastly opposed every attempt by the Liberal Party to stop this pipeline being built, and making yet another major city reliant on the Murray-Darling’s scarce resources.
“It is only further embarrassing that both the Victorian and South Australian Governments are refusing to appear before this Senate inquiry.
“The Rann South Australian Government in particular is to be condemned for not standing up for the interests of the Murray River which are also the interests of South Australia.
“It is not too late to stop the unacceptable draining of billions of litres of water from the Murray-Darling system and for Victoria to pursue alternatives to this madness.”

Today’s hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts is being held from 10.30am at Country Comfort Shepparton, 481 Wyndham Street, Shepparton. Further details of the inquiry, including submissions, hearing dates and agendas, can be found at