Feb 14, 2007

Lack of planning may mean Howard’s water plan is delayed

Lack of planning may mean Howard’s water plan is delayed

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

14 February 2007

Information from key Government officials and concerns raised by the National Farmers Federation suggest the lack of detail in John Howard’s water plan could mean important water programs are delayed.

Labor is very concerned that more effort was put into crafting John Howard’s political speech than on developing detailed funding, timelines and governance arrangements for the water plan.

Today, Mr Laurie Arthur from the NFF stated on ABC’s World Today program that “it will take more than a year to nail down the detail of the water plan.”

Mr Arthur was concerned there hasn’t been any input to the plan from the rural sector as yet.

In Senate Estimates hearings last night, Senator Penny Wong asked how it was decided that $3 billion would be set aside for structural adjustments and buying water entitlements as part of the Government’s water plan.

Senator Wong asked whether it was correct that:

"The Government has done no modelling of any impact on employment, no assessment of the numbers of people who might have to exit the industry and has not costed any price for purchasing entitlement".

Doctor James Horne, the Head of the Government Taskforce preparing the water plan, agreed that was the case. "As far as it goes, that’s correct," he said.

The Department of Finance has revealed it first found out about the Prime Minister’s water announcement only three days before the speech when the Department’s Secretary was asked to “run an eye lightly over” the one page of costings.

The Minister for Finance, Senator Minchin, has also revealed that the $10 billion water plan was not considered by Cabinet.

Senator Minchin arrogantly justified this by describing the package as only “one billion a year, which is less than half a per cent of Commonwealth Government expenditure, let’s keep it in perspective.”

It’s no wonder the Government refuses to give the Opposition a briefing.