Sep 26, 2006

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Water Policy

Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Marrickville Town Hall, Marrickville

26 September 2006

Subject: Water Policy

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The announcement today that the government will be creating another level of bureaucracy when it come to water policy is a concern unless it actually it delivers real action on the ground.

What we have is a political drought when it comes to delivering from the Commonwealth government on water policy.

Australian’s need to hear the sound of water flowing, not just chairs shuffling. What we need is a plan to promote water supply in Australia, not just a plan to promote Malcolm Turnbull.

We have a number of layers already. We have the National Water Initiative. We have the NRM Program. We have the Natural Heritage Trust. We have the Living Murray Initiative. We have the Australian Water Commission. But what we haven’t seen is real results on the ground. In spite of government rhetoric, not a single drop has been returned to the Murray as a result of the Living Murray Initiative.

Australians won’t take the Howard Government seriously when it comes to water policy unless they have a plan to deliver on climate change. This is a government that refuses to acknowledge that climate change is the greatest challenge facing the global community. When it comes to water, climate change will result in a 30% drop in rainfall and a further 25% drop in run off, so unless they address that then they won’t be taken seriously. Action against climate change should be the priority of the Federal Government when it comes to water policy.

They also need practical measures which Labor has announced previously, such as returning 1500 gigalitres to the Murray and adopting a national target of 30% recycling for water by the year 2015. These are practical initiatives that Labor has announced and the government should follow Labor’s lead, just as they are now following Labor’s lead in terms of establishing some better co-ordination of water policy.

Kim Beazley announced some 18 months ago that I would be appointed as the Shadow Minister for Water, a cabinet level position, to show how seriously we take the issue of water and to make sure there is proper co-ordination.

A streamlining of bureaucracy is needed rather than the creation of extra levels. I call upon the government to streamline its programs, along with the announcement of this new office, to make sure that we have better delivery of results on the ground.

JOURNALIST: So the new office would work if other bodies set up to do the same thing were cut back?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly I think that there is a real argument that if you are trying to engage with water management in Australia you have the NRM, the NWI, the NHT and the NAP. It will take you months to work out what all the acronyms are for, let alone understand the different structures for each of those bodies. Some are direct government bodies. Some are joint federal/state announced bodies. Some have local community participations based in terms of recommendations and each one of them creates a difficulty in terms of delivery. I can’t for instance see why there is a separate National Action Plan on Salinity and a separate National Heritage Trust. Surely what we need is to streamline some of these programs so we are better able to achieve results.

The failure of the government in this resolve is perhaps indicated by today’s announcement. After more than ten years they are announcing finally, after much agitation from Labor, particularly during this term of office, to get that co-ordination going. But surely they need, if they are going to be taken seriously, a Water Minister at the federal level.