Today’s announcement of a new water sharing deal for the River Murray further highlights the lack of progress in achieving long term solutions for the Murray-Darling Basin.
Senator Simon Birmingham said that long term progress on the National Plan for Water Security, launched more than a year ago and blocked by Victoria’s Labor Government ever since, doesn’t even appear to be on the Rudd Government’s horizon.
“Today has brought more interim measures on the River Murray, addressing its short term management and responding to the continuing crisis,” Senator Birmingham said.
“But today also brought another missed opportunity for the Prime Minister or his Water Minister to provide any update on achieving agreement between Labor’s bickering state leaders on long term, national management of Australia’s most important water resource.
“The lack of comment or action on national management of the Murray-Darling Basin beggars belief, especially from the South Australian based Water Minister, Senator Wong.”
Senator Birmingham said that Mr Rudd and Senator Wong’s failures on water were mounting up and included:
·         Mr Rudd’s failure to list the Murray-Darling crisis on the agenda for his first all-Labor COAG meeting on 20 December last year;
·         Mr Rudd’s failure to honour his commitment to South Australia’s Acting Premier at the 20 December COAG meeting to meet with the South Australian and Victorian Premiers to resolve the impasse on national management of the Murray-Darling “in the New Year … as soon as he’s able to”;
·         Senator Wong’s failure to have the Murray-Darling Basin explicitly mentioned at all in the published objectives and implementation plans of the COAG Working Group on Climate Change and Water;
·         Senator Wong’s failure to have the River Murray mentioned at all in any of the announcements stemming from the first meeting of the COAG Working Group on Climate Change and Water on 25 January this year; and
·         Mr Rudd and Senator Wong’s failure to mention the long term management of the Murray-Darling Basin in either of their statements regarding contingency measures announced today.
“The environmental damage, economic losses and hurting communities across the Murray-Darling Basin deserve long term action, not just short term contingencies,” Senator Birmingham said. ”Mr Rudd and Senator Wong need to stop burying their heads in the sands of the Murray and show some real leadership of their state Labor colleagues.”