Mar 20, 2007

Action needed to rescue the Murray Darling

Action needed to rescue the Murray Darling

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

20 March 2007

Today’s report from the WWF that the Murray Darling River is drying out because of over-extraction is a wake up call for the Howard Government.

The Report shows that as the Murray Darling Basin runs dry, invasive species and plants are destroying this vital artery.

Addressing the over-allocation of water entitlements is critical to revitalising the water flow and eco-systems of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Commonwealth has a key leadership role in resolving the over-allocation of water licences in the Murray Darling Basin and getting the rivers flowing healthily again.

While the Murray Darling Basin is in crisis, the Howard Government is fundamentally divided over how to address the low water levels in the rivers.

The Minister for Water Resources supports the Commonwealth buying water from willing sellers – but key National Party Ministers such as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture say this should only be done “as a last resort”.

While Ministers argue, the Murray River has been reduced to a trickle in some places, severely damaging the ecology and health of this once mighty river.

The Commonwealth Government should be purchasing over-allocated water entitlements and, as the Prime Minister said on 25 January,

We could muddle through as has occurred in the past, but frankly, that gets us nowhere. Without decisive action we face the worst of both worlds.

The only political group which opposes the Commonwealth showing leadership and taking steps to ensure sustainable water flows in the Murray Darling Basin is the National Party.

John Howard has got to decide what’s more important, the national interest or the National Party.

John Howard must keep his commitment made on 25 January “to invest up to $3 billion in buying back water entitlements and assisting irrigators in the unviable or inefficient parts of schemes to exit the industry.”