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KELVIN THOMSON Media Release from the Shadow Minister for Sustainability, the Environment and Heritage

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Tomorrow’s COAG Meeting needs to set out a clear path to restore Australia’s stressed rivers to health.

Back in 1994 Federal Labor established a water reform process designed to provide certainty for irrigators and environmental flows and sustainability for our rivers.

The 1994 COAG communiqué committed the State Government members of the Council to “implement comprehensive systems of water allocations or entitlements backed by the separation of water property rights from land title and clear specification of entitlements in terms of ownership, volume, reliability, transferability and, if applicable, quality”.

Ten years later we are still waiting. The Howard Government has gone around and around in circles on water, leaving the running to National Party Ministers and MPs who continue to be in denial about the declining health of our rivers and the need for action to provide environmental flows.

Meanwhile our rivers have deteriorated. Sixteen of the Murray-Darling Basin’s thirty-five native fish species, including Murray Cod, are now listed as threatened. In January Dr David Paton found that some waterbird species in the Coorong had declined by 95% just in the past 20 years.

Rains in Queensland this year have not delivered water for the Darling River or RAMSAR listed NSW wetlands. This is because the water has been extracted before it gets to NSW, principally by Cubbie Cotton Station.

Tomorrow’s Meeting should commit to restoring Australia’s rivers to health over a ten year period.

A Labor Government would restore the Murray over a ten year period by finding an additional 1,500 Gigalitres in environmental flows.

Labor would also implement a national system for classifying Australia’s major rivers, ensuring that we identify and protect those of high conservation value.

I welcome the Victorian Government’s Water Blueprint announced yesterday, which will give the environment a legal right to water, and give Goulburn-Murray farmers a legal right to 80% of water presently being extracted in exchange for 20% being returned to the Murray for environmental flows.

Labor’s National Water Policy Framework, launched on World Environment Day nearly three weeks ago, sets out Labor’s position on water allocation, trading, urban water use and other water issues in detail. A copy is available on the ALP website at

For Further Information:

Kelvin Thomson MP Phone: 02 6277 4633 Mobile: 0419 594 882 Gavan O’Neill Phone: 02 6277 4632 Mobile: 0417 118146