Transcript of ABC NewsRadio interview
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP – SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND WATER
Thursday, 25 January 2007
COMPERE: Back to the top story of this morning, as we’ve been reporting, the Prime Minister is set to unveil a multibillion dollar plan to overhaul water management and encourage farmers to be more efficient. John Howard is to throw $2½ billion at the water crisis.
The Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water is Anthony Albanese, and he joins us now. As we’ve been reporting this morning, as part of this major speech, John Howard is going to announce government plans to wrestle control of the Murray-Darling River system away from the states—a contentious move. What’s the opposition’s response, Mr Albanese?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we certainly have called for a streamlining of control of water resources to ensure that there’s not duplication between the Commonwealth and the states, and that’s why Kevin Rudd, last week, called for a national water summit.
Given the constitutional control that the states have over water, we think it is particularly important, though, that this be done in a cooperative manner so we wait to see the detail. We certainly think that the outcomes are what is important but we are concerned that it appears that there hasn’t been any real consultation with the states prior to them reading it in the newspaper this morning ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech.
COMPERE: Well already Malcolm Turnbull, the new minister for environment and water resources, is slating the blame home to the states for this confusion over the Murray-Darling River system. He says they fail to properly invest in water management.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Malcolm Turnbull has to stop the blame game. Malcolm Turnbull, now that he is actually a minister rather than just a parliamentary secretary, has to accept some responsibility. Malcolm Turnbull has been in charge of water policy in the government for some time and already what we have seen is that the Commonwealth have established, in 2004, arising out of the National Water Initiative, the Australian Water Fund. Now, that’s a $2 billion program. That money has been got from the states in the form of the withholding of competition payments and yet we have seen a 70 per cent underspend in that program. We have seen the Commonwealth just simply fail to respond. They have been good at allocating money; very bad at actually spending it and delivering projects on the ground.
COMPERE: If John Howard, in his speech today, does announce that the federal government will be making a bid to take over water resources like the Murray-Darling River system, do you think it will be successful if the states challenge that decision, which they are likely to do, and it does end up in the High Court? I mean, the federal government’s already had a big win on work changes there.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly think that the last thing that we need is legal battles over our water crisis. What we need is resolutions and that’s why we need real solutions, a cooperative approach, an end to the blame game from the Commonwealth.
It’s quite clear that the Commonwealth does need to have greater responsibility, in my view, over our management of water resources. But the Murray-Darling Basin Commission is a cooperative body, if the Commonwealth were to completely take over then there are obviously spending implications behind that. But from my discussions with the state premiers and state ministers responsible for water resources, the states all want to see results and impacts both in terms of the pain that’s been felt in our rural and regional communities but also the water restrictions that are on in every major city in the nation. So let’s talk about solutions rather than continue this game of blaming the states and advocating conflict rather than resolution.
COMPERE: Would you take further controls away from the states on water management?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we’d do is sit down with them and talk through these issues in a cooperative way and discuss what is the best way to achieve outcomes, what’s the best way to stop duplication between the Commonwealth and the states, what’s the best way to ensure that we actually promote water supply, not just promote Malcolm Turnbull as an alternative to Peter Costello to replace the Prime Minister. That’s what’s actually needed [inaudible] and more results.
COMPERE: The Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water, Anthony Albanese.