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Vic goes against the flow on water plan -

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Vic goes against the flow on water plan

Broadcast: 23/02/2007

Reporter: Dana Robertson

Prime Minister John Howard has struck a deal with four of the five Murray-Darling states over his
$10 billion plan for the river basin.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: John Howard's planned takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin has moved a step closer
but he's not getting his way just yet. Today Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the
ACT all agreed to hand over their control of the waterways to the Commonwealth but Victoria is
still refusing to fall into line.

Steve Bracks says he too want to see more water flowing down the Murray but he disagrees with how
John Howard plans to achieve it, but with both sides pledging to keep talking, the Prime Minister's
optimistic the consensus won't be too far away. Dana Robertson reports from Canberra.

DANA ROBERTSON: It was drought that brought them to Canberra but the heavens opened on cue to give
the premiers a watery farewell.

PETER BEATTIE, QLD PREMIER: I might be able to walk on water but I'm not going to do it publicly.

DANA ROBERTSON: John Howard might be thinking the same, after winning support of four out of five
leaders for his $10 billion takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I'm pretty happy with today's meeting. It is a generational shift in
water security in this country and I think we have achieved a great deal today.

MORRIS IEMMA, PREMIER: I see today as an example of what we can achieve by working together and
putting aside political differences and putting the nation first.

PETER BEATTIE: This is a win for science over politics.

MIKE RANN, SA PREMIER: And I think that shows a spirit of compromise in the interests of the river

DANA ROBERTSON: The loan holdout is Victoria's Steve Bracks. He is not yet willing to hand over
control of Victoria's rivers, saying he won't rush a one in 100-year opportunity.

STEVE BRACKS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: This is not about state rights. This is about getting it right.
Getting it right for the nation, getting it right for the Murray Darling Basin, making sure we've
got more water flowing down the Murray.

DANA ROBERTSON: Neither side is ruling out a future deal, with both committed to more negotiation.

JOHN HOWARD: The only thing that I'm saying is that part of our future discussion is not more money
and I want to make it clear publicly - and I made it clear to the other premiers - there are no
side deals.

STEVE BRACKS: This is about policy and getting it right. It's not about the money. The money will
flow where it should flow, where it's most needed in Australia.

DANA ROBERTSON: South Australia and Queensland came into the meeting with what they called three
deal breakers but, after two hours of talks, Mike Rann and Peter Beattie managed to hammer out a
compromise with the Prime Minister. They agreed the deal will now be reviewed in seven years, a
five member expert commission will be appointed to oversee water allocations in the Murray-Darling
Basin and if the Environment Minister rejects their recommendations, he'll have to explain why to

MIKE RANN: By legislation they have to be independently defined experts not Liberal mates, Labor
mates, vested interests. These are actually real water experts.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm passionately of the belief this is in the long term interests of Australia and I
appreciate the spirit of national cooperation which has been evident.

DANA ROBERTSON: Even with the firm in principle support from most key players, any formal deal to
cede state power to the Commonwealth will still be months away but John Howard is talking like a
man who is prepared to be patient.

JOHN HOWARD: If we can get to I think it will be fantastic and we're a long way down the path and
Rome's not built in a day and water security's not achieved in a day but if it takes just a few
more days or weeks, if the achievement is there, that is a wonderful outcome for Australia.

DANA ROBERTSON: He wasn't the only one going home happy.

MORRIS IEMMA: Today is an exciting day. It is a landmark decision that's been taken. I'm pleased
that my colleagues have come to the New South Wales' position.

PETER BEATTIE: Water, water everywhere.

DANA ROBERTSON: If all goes to plan, there will be more in the Murray Darling too.