Dec 31, 2006

National Leadership Needed On Water for 2007

National Leadership Needed On Water for 2007

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

31 December 2006

As we enter 2007, despite years of promises from the Howard Government, not a single drop of water has been returned to the Murray as a result of the Living Murray process.

12 months since the Prime Minister said he would "put a bomb" under the Living Murray process nothing has been achieved. The bomb must have a long fuse.

In his New Year’s statement the Prime Minister has once again restated his rhetoric about national water policy being a priority.

If the Prime Minister’s words could be converted to rain the drought would be over.

Three years ago, Queensland approached the Howard Government for support to buy out Cubbie Stations’ massive water entitlement, but the Commonwealth refused to act.

After years of delay, the Commonwealth has failed to deliver on water trading and has belatedly decided not to buy water licences, but to restrict future purchase of water to efficiency gains. Unless the Governemnt keeps all the options open for returning much needed water, the Government’s rhetoric over water will be dry and remain just rhetoric.

Over-allocation of water licences is a primary source of the water crisis, and the Government should be maximising its purchase of water entitlements.

Limited action from the Commonwealth means it is unlikely to spend the money it has allocated, just as it has spent only a fraction of the $2 billion Australian Water Fund.

It is clear the Howard Government’s target of 500 gigalitres being returned to the Murray will not be met, let alone the 1,500 gigalitres Government scientists advise is necessary to return Australia’s most important river system to health.

The Murray is on life support and all the Federal Government can offer is hollow, dry rhetoric.

Climate change is making make Australia drier and hotter, and because the Howard Government does not have a climate change strategy it does not have a water strategy. Unless we beat climate change, we’ll never fix the water crisis.

The Commonwealth should stop the blame game and show national leadership on water.