The Rudd Government’s failure to take a strong stand on national water management has been reinforced in a damning report today.
The National Water Commission released a two-yearly assessment of progress in implementing the National Water Initiative – the reform plan agreed to by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments in 2004.
The NWC report said the Rudd Government must take control of water reform.
In a telling assessment, the Commission Chairman, Ken Matthews said:
“We urge governments to get reform ‘back on track’ and finish the job they agreed to… in 2004.”
The Commission’s findings include that:
·         The pace of water reform has slowed on almost every front and is now “critically inadequate”
·         Governments will not meet the central commitment under the National Water Initiative to “fix” overallocation by 2010, despite commitments dating back to 1994
·         The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has had “a disappointingly slow start”
Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water Greg Hunt said it’s time for a full national takeover of water now that the Government’s own water commission has blown the whistle.
“The report confirms the improvements for the water sector have largely dried up under the Rudd Government,” Mr Hunt said.
“It was frustration at the states’ slow pace of implementing reforms that led John Howard and then Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull to seek a full Commonwealth takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin.
“Since taking office two years ago, Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong have both failed to achieve a federal takeover and failed to force the states to get their act together. They have been rolled by the states.”
Chair of the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts References Committee, Simon Birmingham, said the report comes less than a week after revelations, in The Weekend Australian, of delays in approvals holding up urgently-needed infrastructure projects.
“As a South Australian, I am acutely aware of the need for action on water,” Senator Birmingham said.
“It is now time for one or the other – either the Commonwealth Government takes total control of our waterways, with constitutional change if need be, or it finds a way to make the states act to fixed timelines.
“Today’s assessment is a damning indictment of Labor Governments at the Commonwealth and State levels in relation to an issue nobody disputes is urgent and critical,” Senator Birmingham said.