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States' water stoush continues -

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States' water stoush continues

The World Today - Friday, 5 June , 2009 12:39:00

Reporter: Gos Goswell

PETER CAVE: The South Australian Government is standing by its threat to take Victoria to the High
Court over water trading policies.

Victoria has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth which will allow the Federal Government to
buy 300-billion litres of water over the next five years.

That agreement follows Victoria's decision to agree to lift one of two water trading barriers, a
cap on the amount of water that can be bought by non-landowners.

But another barrier, a 4 per cent cap on the amount of water that can be traded outside Victoria,
remains in place for now.

South Australia says that's unacceptable, but Victoria has accused South Australia of impeding
water reform.

Farmers say time is running out resolve the stalemate.

Gus Goswell reports.

GUS GOSWELL: There's never a shortage of passion when it comes to the politics of the Murray
Darling Basin.

Victoria has agreed to give the Commonwealth greater access to water, a deal it says will mean more
water for the Murray and greater protection of the environment, while still supporting the
irrigation sector.

South Australia's Minister for Water Security and the River Murray, Karlene Maywald says that
despite its latest concessions Victoria must go further. Ms Maywald wants a river without borders.

KARLENE MAYWALD: We think that it's unreasonable that one state should be able to set rules that
are different to the rest of the nation and we will continue to pursue it through the High Court.

We welcome this step forward however because it means that immediately, the Federal Government can
get in there and start purchasing water, which is a good thing. Whilst we welcome that step
forward, it's not far enough.

GUS GOSWELL: Victoria's Water Minister Tim Holding says the deal with the Commonwealth wasn't
intended to placate South Australia and New South Wales, and he's attacked the South Australian
Government's position.

TIM HOLDING: There are still barriers to trade in South Australia and New South Wales at the moment
- termination fees, cancellation fees. In the Renmark irrigation district in South Australia
there's a total ban on water being traded out.

If South Australia was serious about dealing with these sorts of issues they'd be addressing some
of the anomalies that exist in their own State.

GUS GOSWELL: For many of those looking on, the stoush is unacceptable.

Mike Young is professor of Water Economics and Management at the University of Adelaide.

MIKE YOUNG: For farmers even in Victoria it means tremendous uncertainty. A lot of people were
planning to sell, planning to restructure, wanting to get on with irrigation, and they can't work
out what's happening. And there's immense frustration right across the industry as people can't
plan with confidence and certainty.

GUS GOSWELL: Neither the National Farmers' Federation nor the Victorian Farmers Federation was
available for comment this morning.

The president of the South Australian Farmers' Federation, Peter White, says the farmers he
represents are frustrated by the stalemate.

PETER WHITE: If you're an irrigator it means that Victoria are getting a greater share and are
reluctant to give that up in comparison with the rest of the states. So I mean the river belongs to
Australia, not just Victoria or any other state.

GUS GOSWELL: Peter White says the Federal Government holds the key to unlocking the impasse.

PETER WHITE: The sooner that the Commonwealth Government take it over completely and the states
back off the better really because I don't see any other resolution to it than a single federal
organisation to manage the entire basin, not each state having their two bob's worth.

PETER CAVE: The president of the South Australian Farmers' Federation, Peter White ending Gus
Goswell's report.