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Bidding war between major parties a good sign for the Murray.



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Senator Meg Lees Australian Progressive Alliance Senator for South Australia 23 August 2003

MEDIA RELEASE

Bidding War Between Major Parties A Good Sign for the Murray

Australian Progressive Alliance Senator, Meg Lees, welcomed today’s announcement by the Prime Minister of $125 million in federal money for the River Murray.

“The funds announced today by the Prime Minister won’t get the River flowing again but a bidding war between the two major parties over the River Murray is certainly a good sign,” said Senator Lees.

“It is an important sign that the Government is willing to treat the health of the Murray as a priority issue.

“Unfortunately, neither the Government nor the Opposition have reached the reserved price in their bidding war to save the Murray,” said Senator Lees.

“Putting back the 1500 gigalitres required for restoring a moderate degree of health to the River will cost around $1.5 billion.

“So far Federal Labor has promised $150 million which will not achieve its aim of restoring 450 gigalitres to the River.

“I am concerned that a key element of the Government’s plan is to buy back “surplus water” from irrigators,” said Senator Lees.

“The problem is there is no surplus water. Irrigators are already having their allocations cut and are out in the market buying more water for themselves. The real issue is finding ways to reduce the allocations and that includes buying back existing water licences.

“However I am pleased that the Government is talking about compensation for farmers and working co-operatively with the states to develop a national water initiative through the Council of Australian Governments.

“The South Australian Government could contribute immediately by ensuring the new Clare Valley pipeline is for domestic consumption only and by “declaring” the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges which will get those rivers flowing into the Murray again.

“I hope this auction will continue right up until the next federal election and we will reach a price that will make a real difference for the Murray,” Senator Lees concluded.

For comment: Senator Lees 0418 804 505 www.megsdesk.com