Mar 31, 2006

Howard Government has no plan for the River Murray

Howard Government has no plan for the River Murray


31 March 2006

Getting water back into the River Murray and securing water supply for urban areas are critical national issues, but Malcolm Turnbull appears lost.

John Howard’s handpicked Parliamentary Secretary for water, Malcolm Turnbull, is all at sea with the big water issues facing Australia.

Five weeks ago, John Howard said the lack of progress on restoring the River Murray was at the top of his agenda and that he wanted to "put a bomb under the process".

Today Malcolm Turnbull said he “does not have a new agenda for the River Murray”.

For months Labor has warned that very little water has flowed into the River Murray as a result of the Howard Government’s $500 million Living Murray First Step program.

The Labor Party is committed to returning 1500 gigalitres back into the Murray – that’s three times the volume of Sydney Harbour flowing back into the Murray each year.

Yesterday, Federal Parliament debated the first piece of legislation on water since Malcolm Turnbull became Parliamentary Secretary for water, but Malcolm Turnbull did not even bother contributing to the debate.

I was one of six Labor MP’s who spoke on the motion relating to Snowy Hydro. The issue directly related to water flows into the Murray and upper-Murrumbidgee.

Malcolm Turnbull’s silence follows his first decision as John Howard’s Parliamentary Secretary for Water, which was not to make a decision.

Rather than support Toowoomba’s water recycling plan, Malcolm Turnbull’s position is to impose an expensive referendum and advocate a vote for “maybe”.

The plan is strongly supported by the local Council, Queensland Government and the National Water Commission.

Both John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull have said they support water recycling, but when it came to the crunch they went to water.

It’s time the Howard Government took water issues more seriously.