Former federal Water Minister Penny Wong’s warning today to South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill over Murray-Darling Basin reform has been welcomed by the Coalition’s Basin spokesman, Simon Birmingham.
Asked about Mr Weatherill’s threats of a High Court challenge to a final Basin Plan, Senator Wong delivered a clear warning to Mr Weatherill and any dissident federal colleagues over prolonging interstate disputes over the Murray-Darling Basin’s water.
Whilst correctly acknowledging the role of a state Premier to stand up for their state, South Australian Senator Wong suggested High Court threats would ultimately be unhelpful:
“I do think South Australia and the nation will be best served if it can be resolved. I think the fighting between states has not served the river well, the Basin well. That was always the view I put when I held this portfolio.”
Penny Wong, National Press Club, 8 February 2012
“Senator Wong’s measured statement is in stark contrast to the approach being recklessly taken by Mr Weatherill,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Mr Weatherill’s threatened High Court challenge to any final Basin Plan must surely have the greatest potential of prolonging the fighting between states that Senator Wong considers so unhelpful.
“Her warning demonstrates the importance for Jay Weatherill to stop playing politics with the Murray-Darling, to stop making threats about the future and to instead focus on working with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other states to achieve a Basin Plan that ensures the environmental health of the Murray-Darling together with the socio-economic health of the communities relying upon it.”