Aug 17, 2006

Ministers argue while Murray River runs dry

Ministers argue while Murray River runs dry

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

17 August 2006

Today’s reports that water levels in the Murray River are at their lowest level since records started 100 years ago are a wake up call for the Howard Government.

The Government is so divided over how to address the low water levels in the Murray River that the only thing we get from the Howard Government is a trickle of water reform.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Water supports the Commonwealth buying water from willing sellers to restore flows to the Murray – but the Minister for Agriculture opposes this.

While Ministers argue, the Murray River has been reduced to a trickle in some places.

Real money is needed to buy real water so we can make a real difference to water levels in the Murray River.

Labor supports 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.

Revitalising the water flow and eco-systems of the Murray River and the Murray-Darling Basin should be a first order priority for the Commonwealth Government.

In November 2003 the Howard Government promised to give the Murray River 500 giga (billion) litres within five years. So far not a single drop has actually been returned as a result of the Living Murray First Step program.

The Howard Government promises money, but no water flows from their promises.

According to the CSIRO, climate change will mean rainfall in the Murray Darling basin is expected to fall by 25% and evaporation rates will rise. Think of the impact this will have on Australian agriculture, our domestic food supply and exports.

Australia’s long-term water security can only be guaranteed if we explicitly take into account threats to water quantity and quantity from climate change.

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