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Liberals try to turn off the tap for South Australian industry.

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PW 240/08 26 November 2008


In the Senate last night, the Liberal Party joined forces with the Greens to vote in favour of reducing the amount of water available to South Australians, and also voted to put at risk the water supply of key South Australian businesses.

During the debate on water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin, Liberal Senators from South Australia voted to enforce reductions on the amount of domestic and industrial water that could be taken from the Murray by towns and cities that lie outside of the Basin - including Adelaide, Port Pirie, Whyalla and Keith.

Meanwhile under this amendment to the Water Amendment Bill, towns and cities within the Basin, such as Dubbo, Wagga and Mildura, would be unaffected.

In addition, Liberal Senators voted to amend the definition of ‘critical human water needs’ - an amendment that would create uncertainty over water security for industry.

The vote removes a key provision in the Bill which provides water to industry in circumstances where a failure to provide water would cause prohibitively high social, economic or national security costs.

If the removal of this provision was allowed to stand, the water security of key businesses such as One Steel in Whyalla and Nyrstar in Port Pirie could be at risk.

Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said that in an attempt to score political points over water, the Liberal Party was putting communities at risk.

“It is extraordinary that South Australian Liberal Senators would rather play political games than enable key industries to get the water they need to operate and employ thousands of South Australians,” Senator Wong said.

“Obviously, the Liberal Party is so out of touch that it does not consider the jobs of thousands of South Australians to be critical and worth defending.”

Senator Wong said the move to reduce over time the critical water supplies of certain population centres, but not others, was a political stunt that had backfired.

“Everybody agrees we should be investing in new water supplies that don’t rely on rainfall and the Murray - and that is what the Rudd Government is doing. But that doesn’t mean you turn off the tap to Adelaide - or to towns that have little or no alternative to water supplies currently piped from the Murray.

“These amendments cannot be allowed to stand and the Rudd Government will reject them when the Bill returns to the Lower House.”

The reforms before the Senate will create an independent Authority to manage the Basin to improve outcomes for the communities and environment that are reliant on the Murray for their health.