Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Marrickville Town Hall, Marrickville
13 October 2006
Subject: Australia’s water crisis, Climate Change
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Howard Government has to move on from its policy of blame shifting and denial when it comes to the water crisis and climate change.
Unless we avoid dangerous climate change, then we will have a permanent water crisis.
What have we seen from the government? We see when it comes to urban water – a failure to give practical support for the projects which are being undertaken by state governments around the nation. When it comes to rural water issues – we have seen a refusal of the government to actually deliver on its rhetoric. The National Water Initiative provides a framework for water trading and establishing water markets, and in spite of Commonwealth commitments, not a single drop of water has actually been purchased by the government, on a voluntary basis and returned to flows, particularly in the Murray Darling Basin.
It is a fact, that in spite of government rhetoric, not a single drop of water has been returned to the Murray.
What we are seeing with the current extraordinary drought is a sign of what the future is under climate change unless we take action. We know that last year was the hottest year on record. We know that August 2006 was the hottest in more than 100 years, and we know that the Murray is the driest it has been in at least 100 years.
The Prime Minister and his colleagues are prepared to stand idly by as the cracks in the parched earth open up beneath them. It is simply not good enough. We need action from the Federal Government not just rhetoric, denial and blame shifting.
JOURNALIST: An audit today found that it is the States who are slow in their progress of actually trying to help the water crisis. This implies that the Federal government was not to blame. What do you have to say to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It was of course a Federal Government audit that was released by the Federal Government which once again goes to the issue of blame shifting. The Federal Government does have some responsibility. It has $2 billion in the Australian Water Fund that has been committed but not spent. It has a National Water Initiative that hasn’t resulted in the purchasing of any water. It has a Living Murray Program in which not a single drop has been returned to the Murray.
What we see from the Commonwealth is a failure to deliver on any practical projects, for example here in NSW. The Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Malcolm Turnbull, has been written to by the NSW Government, about the proposed $155 million dollar recycling project in western Sydney and yet he hasn’t responded. At the same time he has promoted the impractical issue of mining the Botany aquifer. This is an aquifer tainted by contaminants and therefore isn’t appropriate. It is also a proposal which would endanger through subsidence many thousands of homes in the region.
The Federal government has to actually get to the table and support practical projects.
In 2004 they were approached by the Queensland government to buy out Cubbie Farm, a drain on the Murray Darling Basin, and they refused to do so in spite of, to his credit, Senator Bill Heffernan urging from within their own ranks.
It is about time the Federal Government took some responsibility instead of just denial and blame shifting.