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Governments have the power, they just need to use it

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Thursday 11 September 2008

Governments have the power, they just need to use it

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has welcomed the Federal and New South Wales Governments’ purchase of Toorale Station as a necessary step in saving the Murray-Darling Basin, and says legislative provisions must now be utilised to ensure that water reaches the parts of the river that need it.

“This buyback is a very encouraging step forward in taking action for this environmental catastrophe,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“We need more storages to be identified, both public and private, and for the water within them to be acquired for the environment.

“But we must also make sure that this new water can actually reach the parts of the river system that need it.”

Senator Hanson-Young backed the point made by Professor Mike Young at yesterday’s Adelaide Senate Inquiry hearing that, for as long as those downstream are permitted to take water out of the system, water released from upstream will not reach the lower lakes and Coorong.

“There are provisions in Section 132 of the Natural Resources Management Act to ensure that water released upstream actually makes it through SA to the lower Murray without it being removed,” she said.

“We are currently seeking advice as to whether the other Basin states have similar provisions.”

Senator Hanson-Young also said the Commonwealth already has Corporations powers under the Constitution to act now to ensure an allocation of water is quarantined for the river and vital environmental flows.

“We heard from Professor John Williams at yesterday’s Inquiry hearing that these Corporations powers are there to be used by the Commonwealth if it has the political will to do so.”

Senator Hanson-Young said it was encouraging to hear that Premier Rann would introduce legislation to refer SA powers to the Commonwealth on 23 September.

“Let’s not forget that the other states must refer theirs too by 1 November to fulfil the commitment they signed up to at COAG months ago,” she said.

“The other states must fast-track the Inter-Governmental Agreement and Basin Plan. 2019, 2014 and 2012 are all far too late - we need everyone’s agreements in place now to move forward.”

Senator Hanson-Young reiterated the need for a national authority to be given ultimate power to take action on the Murray-Darling crisis.

“It’s time for the states to refer their powers and let a national authority be established with the expertise and teeth to actually make the decisions that are needed in time,” she said.

For more information: Gemma Clark on 0427 604 760