May 20, 2005

Don’t play politics with Water

Don’t Play Politics With Water

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 20 May 2005

The Prime Minister should heed the strong advice of the National Farmers Federation: don’t play politics with water.

Addressing the water issues requires more than a political splash.

The Government has no fresh ideas and is not showing leadership on this critical issue.

Everyone knows we have a water crisis in Australia. Just look at dam levels in our towns and cities. Just look at our dying Murray River.

The drought gripping Australia is the most dramatic example of climate change to hit Australia. This is a national crisis requiring leadership from the Federal Government.

But the Howard Government continues to treat water as a third rate issue. Last year they announced a $2 billion Water Fund, but $1.6 billion of that was taken from State Government funding for schools and hospitals.

There was very little new funding to address the water crisis in last week’s Budget.

Now they’re saying to the States you won’t get money to fix the water crisis unless you sign on to our extreme industrial relations policy. Tying water policy to industrial relations is all about politics and not about national leadership.

If the Howard Government’s industrial relations proposals were so terrific, they would not need to tie compliance on industrial relations matters to water funding.

When rural towns and farmers run out of water, do you seriously think they will care about the Howard Government’s ideologically driven changes to industrial relations?

Effectively, the Government is holding all Australians hostage.

If John Howard was serious, he would provide significant new Commonwealth funds to address the drought in rural Australia and our urban water problems.

The Government should commit an additional 1,500 gigalitres for the Murray River.

The Government must also take strong steps to tackle climate change, which according to the experts will only worsen drought conditions.

Let’s not play politics. Let’s get on with the job of fixing our water crisis.