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Basin reform in crisis, but shhh: legal advice is a secret!



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MEDIA RELEASE Senator Simon Birmingham Liberal Senator for South Australia Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray-Darling Basin Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Thursday, 9 December 2010 Basin reform in crisis, but shhh - legal advice is a secret! The Gillard Government has sunk to new lows of secrecy regarding legal advice at the centre of the crisis ridden Murray-Darling Basin reform process, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today. Water Minister Tony Burke has reportedly claimed that new legal advice provided to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will not be publicly released because the Australian Governor Solicitor who prepared it was not warned in advance that it would be released. “It is difficult to believe that Mr Burke could seriously suggest that advice can only be released if the author knows at the time of drafting that it will be released,” Senator Birmingham said today. “This is certainly not my understanding of our Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, and I will be lodging an FOI application today for this latest legal advice.” Senator Birmingham is already awaiting a decision on an application for earlier legal advice provided to the Authority. “This rift between the Government and its independent Authority over social and economic considerations in preparing the Basin Plan is so fundamental it has seen Authority chairman Mike Taylor resign this week,” Senator Birmingham said. “What does Mr Burke have to hide in relation to this advice? “Does Mr Burke expect us to take his word that the latest advice is not inconsistent with advice he’s released in the past, when we are receiving very different messages from an Authority chairman tendering his resignation? “Basin reform is urgently in need of leadership from Mr Burke, who must take responsibility for the process and outline how he will get it back on track. “Secrecy and hiding behind flimsy excuses will only further fuel angst and uncertainty in Basin communities whose livelihoods depend on a sensible outcome.” Media contact: Senator Birmingham 0404 807 970