Accusations about the extent of water theft in the Murray Darling Basin highlight just how ineffective Water Minister Penny Wong has been at addressing issues she’s long known about, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority estimates enough water has been diverted to private dams to more than fill the desperate Lower Lakes.
The issue was conceded by Senator Wong more than six months ago:
“And there are other issues that still need work, such as the different ways water theft is managed by state governments.
“I believe Australia needs a stronger compliance and enforcement regime, in the Basin and elsewhere, to recognise that when people take water that is not theirs, that hurts all of us.
“Taking water illegally is theft and should be treated as such. It’s a basic law and order issue – like any other for which the States are responsible. We don’t tolerate other theft; why should we tolerate theft of one our most important natural assets?”
            Penny Wong, SA Press Club, 9 November 2009
These words are of little comfort when we see no evidence of action, but clear evidence that such practices are continuing.
The National Water Commission has also previously sounded the warning bell and last year specifically recommended:
“further exploration of the extent of noncompliance, and the potential for greater coherence and coordination of water enforcement across jurisdictions by means of national principles to guide compliance and enforcement efforts and to improve cross-border consistency.”
Penny Wong has had three years to address these issues, and she herself highlighted them before this year’s floods, but has failed to deliver for the Basin.
The Murray Darling Basin and the many communities relying on its health need a Government that will stand up to the states and make them deliver on their commitments.