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Howard warns states not to play water games -

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Howard warns states not to play water games

Broadcast: 09/02/2007

Reporter: Criag McMurtrie

The Prime Minister has warned the states not to use the Murray-Darling negotiations as an
opportunity to score political points.

Transcript

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The fate of the Prime Minister's $10 billion rescue plan for the Murray-Darling is
even more uncertain tonight, with the states expressing new doubts and wanting answers to more
questions. Today it was opposition leader Kevin Rudd's turn to sit down with the premiers and,
afterwards, he offered to help close the deal, but an increasingly frustrated John Howard is
warning the states against scoring political points. Political editor, Craig McMurtrie reports.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: With the states holding out, enter Kevin Rudd, the conciliator.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: What I'll be doing in the two weeks ahead is trying to help bridge
the gap between the Commonwealth and state positions.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: He says it will take time but he's optimistic.

KEVIN RUDD: I'm a very practical sort of bloke. If I see a couple of problems which need to be
fixed, I'll do what I can.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: A day after their talks in Canberra, that gap over the Commonwealth's takeover of
the Murray Darling basin is hardly closing.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I sensed that they weren't in any hurry to reach agreement.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: The states are questioning the funding of John Howard's $10 billion proposal,
concerned about money going to irrigation projects outside the Murray-Darling.

MIKE RANN, SA PREMIER: We need to spend the next couple of weeks getting it right rather than this
chopping and changing.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: They want more of a say over the commission that would run the river system.

PETER BEATTIE: In a few years' time, similar gatherings like this, journalists are going to say,
"You signed off, Premier. What sort of an idiot were you to sign off on something that turned into
a mad dog's breakfast?"

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: The lone supporter, New South Wales' Morris Iemma is still backing the proposal in
principal but...

MORRIS IEMMA, PREMIER: I have outstanding issues that need resolution.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: The Victorian premier even questions that the states need to formally refer powers
to the Commonwealth to make the scheme work.

STEVE BRACKS, VIC PREMIER: No-one wants to, if we don't have to, just simply have a grab for power
by Canberra.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: John Howard was in Port Macquarie and Taree, opening technical colleges. He
disagrees with the premier's assessment and, in an election year, smells a rat.

JOHN HOWARD: They can inflict as much political pain as they like on me. I don't want them
inflicting water security pain on the people of Australia, and I'm asking the states to seriously
come to the next meeting, on 23 February, and deal openly and directly with me.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: The state and territory Labor leaders are also turning up the political
temperature on the federal government over climate change, signing an agreement to set up their own
national greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme by 2010.

STEVE BRACKS: Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 - that means putting a cap on
emissions, that means that permits would have to be purchased for those caps which are given to
industries.

MIKE RANN: We want the Commonwealth on board.

CRAIG MCMURTRIE: But he says they intend to do it with or without Canberra.