Senator Simon Birmingham today welcomed the Senate’s decision to refer the dire situation facing the Murray-Darling, particularly the Lower Lakes and Coorong, to an urgent committee inquiry.
The inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport will report by 30 September, giving it a shorter than usual time of five weeks.
“I was very pleased to co-sponsor this motion with Greens Senators, Senator Xenophon and my fellow South Australian Liberal Senator Fisher,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“I particularly hope the shorter than usual reporting timeframe will ensure that action is taken quickly, based on the inquiry’s findings.
“I also welcome the support of the Greens and other cross-bench Senators for the motion moved by South Australian Liberal Senators that the ‘urgent advice’ Minister Wong asked her department for on 18 June be tabled in the Senate by noon tomorrow.
“Both of these motions have effectively come about because of the Government’s failure to act, and its continuing failure to take Australians into its confidence on this critical issue.
“Disappointingly, the Government opposed our motion to table its ‘urgent advice’, but we sincerely hope the Government reconsiders its position, or at the very least abides by the Senate’s wishes. This advice might allow the Senate committee to ‘fast track’ its deliberations and for action to be taken sooner.
“For too long, the lower reaches of the River Murray, particularly the Lower Lakes and Coorong, have been in desperate need of increased flows.
“We acknowledge the impact of the prolonged drought.
“However, we would not be facing the current predicament were it not for the chronic mismanagement and over-allocation which the Rudd Government has failed to satisfactorily address despite the Howard Government initiating moves to do so last January.
“Ideally we won’t have to wait for a committee report – the Rudd Government will take immediate action to save the Lower Lakes well before 30 September.
“However, if the Rudd Government continues to fail us, then hopefully this Committee will deliver the alternatives South Australians desperately seek.”