Jan 31, 2007

National Party undermining Howard’s Murray Darling Basin plan

National Party undermining Howard’s Murray Darling Basin plan


31 January 2007

The National Party is openly undermining the Prime Minister’s Murray Darling Basin plan.

Under pressure from the National Party, John Howard’s rhetoric about sorting out water overallocation in the Murray Darling Basin and buying back water entitlements has lasted less than one week.

Last Thursday, John Howard announced the Government’s plan to spend $3 billion “buying back water entitlements” in the Murray Darling Basin, but the plan is being dragged into a muddy pool by the National Party.

After stating last Sunday that “There might be an area where you buy out the farm, close down a channel because it’s inefficient”, the new Minister for Environment and Water, Malcolm Turnbull is now meekly saying that buying water entitlements would only be a “last resort”.

Last Thursday at the National Press Club, buying water entitlements was a key plank of John Howard’s plan to rescue the Murray Darling Basin, but now it’s a “last resort”.

The National Party’s Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, has long opposed the Government buying back water entitlements.

For the last three years, Peter McGauran and Malcolm Turnbull have fought over whether the Commonwealth should buy water licences from willing sellers.

The dispute led to the absurd situation where the Government’s current tender to buy back over-allocated water is limited to “efficiency gains”.

The Howard Government needs to sort out its internal divisions.

Addressing the overallocation of water entitlements must be a central component of resolving our water crisis.