Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should convene an urgent meeting of Murray-Darling Basin State Premiers to negotiate truly national management of the system, Coalition Murray Darling spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
The Rudd Government’s failure to achieve national management of Basin waters has been highlighted by New South Wales having total say on how much if any of northern Basin floodwaters to reach the Menindee Lakes storage scheme will be released to downstream states.
“It is increasingly clear that truly national management is needed today – not next year when we might have a Basin Plan, not in 2013 when the Plan might start to take effect, not in 2019 when Victoria says it might recognise the Plan, but today,” Senator Birmingham said.
“If the deal signed up to by Basin State First Ministers in 2008 was as historic as claimed at the time, why is the South Australian Premier reduced to writing letters begging New South Wales for a share? And isn’t the Commonwealth equally impotent if all it can do is play a mediating role which is all Mr Rann is asking of it?
“Mr Rann and his Water Minister Karlene Maywald have long defended their inability to secure more water for the critical Lower Lakes by saying they can’t make it rain.
“Now it has rained, and rained heavily, in the Murray Darling Basin catchment but only New South Wales has any say over the resulting flows.
“It should be remembered there will be less water to beg for thanks to Mr Rudd’s broken election promise to accelerate water saving infrastructure works at Menindee Lakes as a top priority – works designed to save 200 billion litres of water a year.
“Only a truly national plan will see the Murray Darling Basin managed as a single entity with consideration for its overall health today, and only an urgent meeting of Basin State First Ministers will see a truly national plan realised.
“Mr Rudd must convene this meeting.”