Apr 19, 2007

Transcript – Murray Darling basin, need for water and climate change strategy

Transcript of media conference – Electorate Office, Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Thursday, 19 April 2007


Subject: Murray Darling Basin, need for water and climate change strategy to address long-term water crisis

ALBANESE: Labor shares the concern of the Prime Minister over water supplies in the Murray Darling Basin, but we believe firmly that unless you have a plan to address climate change you won’t address the water crisis. Unless you have a plan to address water across the Murray-Darling Basin over the long-term, you won’t address the water crisis.

Labor supports action being taken to ensure the drinking water supplies for rural communities.

We are most concerned that many of the initiatives foreshadowed under the National Water Initiative have not been implemented, whether they be for rural communities or for urban communities.

This water crisis has not occurred overnight. The water crisis has developed over a number of years, and it shouldn’t have taken an election year to get action from the Howard Government over these issues.

REPORTER: What does the Prime Minister’s statement today that farmers and irrigators can’t take water out of the Murray mean for farmers?

ALBANESE: That will place a great deal of pressure on the farming communities. They have already suffered in recent years because of the drought. They have also suffered because of a lack of Government foresight. It’s way back in 1994 that COAG first addressed the Murray Darling issues, and began the process which took 10 long years to form the National Water Initiative. It’s been clear for a long time that our water supplies have been over-allocated, but the Government is yet to purchase any of that over-allocated water to put it back into the system.

It’s quite clear that the complacency of the Howard Government, dominated as it is by climate sceptics, has meant that the pressure has got to the point whereby we now face what is quite extreme action due to the water supply shortages for our agricultural communities.

REPORTER: Isn’t it better late than never though?

ALBANESE: It is certainly better to take action than to not take action at all. I think Australians expect their Government to take action not just in election years but over a considerable period of time.

I think most Australians would find it pretty extraordinary that the National Water Initiative, which began in 2004 and established programs such as the $2 billion Australian Water Fund – but more than half of that money remains in Government coffers. At a time of national water crisis, one could have expected early action because early action is cheaper, and early action means you don’t have to take drastic measures down the track.

What this highlights again today is the need for Australia to have a serious national plan on climate change if we are going to address the water crisis and if we are going to avoid, in the future, having to take drastic action such as we are seeing today.

REPORTER: Is it too little too late?

ALBANESE: Well, certainly there may be a need for further action. It certainly is of some concern that it has been left to the point where we’re having to have these extreme measures taken. But it’s quite clear that we do need to secure our water supplies for the citizens in our regional towns and communities as a first priority, and we certainly agree with the government on that. We are hopeful that there will be ongoing co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, because this is a national water crisis that requires a national water solution.