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Rudd offers nothing but confusion for MDB communities.

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The Hon John Cobb MP Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security

The Rudd Government’s proposal to accelerate buy-backs in the northern Murray Darling Basin will not alleviate the current crisis at the mouth of the Murray, and will decimate already struggling communities unless the Government reinstates the $1.5 billion structural adjustment package.

“The Queensland/Northern NSW $400 million water buy back tender will take at least three months to finalise, by which time we will be getting into summer and without rain it will take a lot more water than the Government can buy to get any decent flows into Menindee Lakes and down to the Lower Lakes and the Coorong.

Mr Cobb said "Instead of more haphazard knee jerk announcements, Mr Rudd needs to answer the following questions for all communities throughout the Basin:

1.Exactly what powers the MDB States have handed over to the Commonwealth Government.

2.Why Penny Wong has refused to release ‘the urgent advice on what could be done for Lower Lakes’ she ordered in June?

3.What is the impact of the Victorian Government’s decision to steal 75 gigalitres out of the Murray Darling Basin on the Lower Lakes and the Coorong and the communities and businesses along the Murray and Goulburn Rivers and why won’t they stop it?

4.Why it will take until 2011 for a Basin Plan to be completed?

5.When will the promised COAG priority projects for infrastructure projects be delivered?

6.What structural adjustment assistance will be available to communities devastated by large scale water buy-backs?

7.When will further assistance for drought stricken communities, farmers and businesses in the MDB made available?

Mr Cobb said the Rudd Government was stuck on ‘spin cycle’ when it came to the MDB and had not released any details on how its plan for the Basin will work.

“On the surface it seems that the States have handed all of the financial risk on to the Commonwealth, but will still have a veto right on any decisions relating to a new cap or how the Murray Darling system is run.

“For example under the current system with the Murray Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) every MDB State and the Commonwealth has the power to veto any decision relating to the Murray Darling Basin and stop it in its tracks.

“The Rudd Government has not said how it will ensure that the new Murray Darling Basin Authority which is to amalgamate the old MDBC will have any real power,

particularly given the States will still retain their veto rights under the MDBC,” he said.

“Mr Rudd’s historic COAG Agreement is sinking fast under the weight of State Government interference and it is vital that pressure is bought to bear on the Rudd Government to ensure that the new Murray Darling Basin Authority does not become a toothless tiger.

Mr Cobb said it had always been the Coalition’s intention to create a single national authority to run the rivers, however, the Rudd Government’s current plans will see a national authority in name only.