Dec 15, 2005

Government water policy delays are hurting our rivers

Government water policy delays are hurting our rivers

ANTHONY ALBANESE MP – 15 December 2005

The Howard Government has been way too slow to respond to the water crisis facing almost every town and city in Australia.

The Treasurer, Peter Costello, finally announced this week that water trading will be referred to the Productivity Commission.

The Productivity Commission will report mid 2006, almost three years after the Council of Australian Governments agreed on a framework for the National Water Initiative in August 2003.

The 2003 NWI framework was to establish an efficient water market structure, a system of water access entitlements to encourage investment and better use of water, and critically, to ensure sufficient water for healthy rivers. These important principles must not be lost in translation by the Productivity Commission.

It is important that we get the principles for water trading right, but the delay for more than three years to develop those principles shows the Howard Government does not treat the issue of water seriously enough.

The principles for water trading must ensure that rivers are healthy and water goes to the best use.

Mismanagement of water and delays in reforming water use impact on the natural environment and the sustainability of the urban and rural industries that depend upon water.

The NSW Government’s recent decision to use $105m to buy back water from willing sellers to save stressed wetlands and waterways shows State Labor Governments will put their money where their mouth is and lead on the issue of water.

The Federal Government should match this funding through the National Water Initiative.

Labor remains committed to providing leadership on the issue of water management.