Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP – Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water
Manager of Opposition Business
Federal Member for Grayndler
Monday, 5 February 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Questions over lack of planning for Prime Minister’s Murray Darling Basin announcement
ALBANESE: The revelation of the lack of involvement of Treasury, Finance, and indeed, even the Department of Environment and Heritage, in the Government’s water announcement of January 25, are of considerable concern.
Labor has had a constructive response to this package. We want to see real water reform in Australia.
We want to see a streamlining between the Commonwealth and the states, so that it’s water that flows, and not red tape. But we also want to see the funding detail, the timelines, and the governance arrangements that the Commonwealth is proposing.
We welcome the fact that the Commonwealth and the states will be having a summit this Thursday, because I think the states are entitled to answers to those questions.
Labor believes that water reform is too important to be fudged.
We need to get the detail right. And the one-page, flimsy few lines that came with the Prime Minister’s speech prior to Australia Day, and the reported costings, are certainly no-where detailed enough.
$10 billion is a substantial amount of money, but it’s over ten years, and we need to see what the timeline for that expenditure is.
I think the fact that the Commonwealth, since that announcement, in the form of Peter McGauran, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Prime Minister, has had three different positions regarding the acquisition by the Commonwealth of over-allocated water, has again highlighted that we need stream-lining, not just between the Commonwealth and the states: in this case, we need stream-lining within the Howard cabinet so that the Government speaks actually with one voice.
REPORTER: Do you think that, because it didn’t go to Treasury and Finance, that they’re hiding something?
ALBANESE: I think that this was a hastily gathered package. It’s quite clear, just as with climate change, that this is a government that only responds in election years.
We’ve known about the water crisis, we’ve known about the long-term impact of the drought, and indeed of climate change, yet the government has failed to respond.
The position that the Prime Minister put in his speech on January 25 was very different from the position that was put on Melbourne Cup Day last year, where, on two days notice, he gathered premiers from the Murray Darling Basin.
I think it highlights the problem with the government that it’s all about the politics and not about the policy development. And it certainly is of concern that, on an issue as significant as this, this proposal didn’t even go to Cabinet.