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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5384

Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (16:16): I rise to talk on an issue that is very close to my heart, a matter I have raised in this place on numerous occasions—that is, the importance of the reforms to Murray-Darling Basin. As someone who grew up on the river, I have been a long-term advocate for the necessity of reform to the basin, particularly in line with the announcement made by the former Prime Minister, John Howard, on Australia Day 2007, when he announced for the first time that the federal government would take responsibility for the Murray-Darling Basin and that there would be an evidence based plan produced outside the politics between the states. Sadly, in recent days and weeks we have seen reports that this necessary reform is being subverted by some concerning elements. I refer to the story in the Adelaide Advertiser on Saturday about 'water rats'—the state ministers who, along with the federal Labor government, have again abandoned my communities on the Lower Lakes by again putting out the time frames for reform, again taking longer than necessary. That process is of course led by a federal Labor government which, since it was elected, has failed to put in place the very well stepped out plan that was given to it by John Howard, and the member for Wentworth, when he came to government.

There have been reports in both the Adelaide Advertiser and the Australian relating to the fact that there will be significant reductions to the entitlements which were in the initial draft plan that was released late last year. The suggestion is that the amount will be reduced by some 1,000 gigalitres. I wrote to the new chairman of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority last week and made it very clear that my community expects the plan that will be released to be based on evidence. That was the intention of the reforms that John Howard announced. But that has again been subverted by politics, which has afflicted the basin for over 100 years and has taken us to the position where environmental assets like Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert, the Coorong and the Murray mouth are being degraded further because of the lack of will for reform by this minister, this Labor government, and the South Australian Labor government, who should hang their heads in shame that they have allowed this process to end in this place. We expect the final plan to be based on evidence and we will want to see why there has been such a reduction in just six months. We will want to see the evidence for why that will happen, if that is the case, because it will seem to us that politics has yet again taken over. (Time expired)