Oct 11, 2005

Government fails to protect the health of the River Murray

Government fails to protect the health of the River Murray

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

11 October 2005

Not a single drop of water has been returned to the River Murray as a result of the 2003 Living Murray First Step Decision. This is an abject failure of policy by the Howard Government.

The Howard Government has been complacent and has failed to protect the health of the River Murray and the Murray-Darling Basin.

Labor supports the call by the South Australian Minister for the River Murray, National Party MP Hon. Karlene Maywald, for urgent action from the Federal Government including market based options such as purchasing water from willing sellers or acquiring options to access water entitlements, in order to deliver on the Living Murray initiative.

Overuse of water from the River Murray and its tributaries severely impacts on the natural environment and the sustainability of the industries that depend upon its water.

Revitalising the water flow and eco-systems of the River Murray and the Murray-Darling Basin should be a first order priority for the Commonwealth Government. The resources of the Murray-Darling Basin are over-committed and corrective action is urgently required.

The River Murray and Murray Darling Basin are in crisis, but the Howard Government prefers to spend public money promoting its extreme industrial relations agenda.

The National Water Initiative states that cost effective ways of returning water to the Murray should be supported. Given this, it is extraordinary that National Party Minister McGauran is opposing the purchase of water.

Instead of spending $100 million of public money on political advertisements, the Government should buy 100 gigalitres from willing sellers as a short-term solution to revive the Murray-Darling Basin. Spending $100 million to help restore the River Murray and Murray Darling Basin would have strong community support.

Labor has consistently supported increasing environmental flows by 1500 gigalitres to the River Murray.