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Garrett refuses to ensure independent Lower Lakes assessment.

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MEDIA RELEASE Senator Simon Birmingham Liberal Senator for South Australia

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Garrett refuses to ensure independent Lower Lakes assessment

The Rudd Government is risking a lack of public confidence in the process surrounding moves to flood the Lower Lakes with sea water, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.

Under national environmental law, the Rann State Government has been required by Federal Minister Garrett to prepare an EIS on its proposal to open the barrage network separating Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong, allowing sea water in.

In releasing Draft Guidelines on the Content of a Draft EIS this week, Mr Garrett has ignored a letter sent to him last month by Senator Birmingham urging him to require independent oversight of its preparation.*

Instead, Mr Garrett's guidelines leave the preparation of the EIS entirely in the hands of the Rann Government, meaning it will be assessing the impact of its own application.

“Given the importance of this EIS, and the ramifications that will flow from it, its preparation should not be left in the hands of faceless bureaucrats doing the Rann Government’s bidding,” Senator Birmingham said today.

“It is of critical importance that the public has confidence in this process, and therefore that the EIS is prepared in a totally transparent way. The best way for this to occur would have been for an independent panel with credible expertise to oversee its preparation.

“Environment Minister Peter Garrett has the power to ensure this is the case by requiring it under the terms of reference he and his Department set, and it is profoundly disappointing that he has ignored my suggestion to do so. Indeed, he hasn't even had the courtesy to respond to the suggestion.

“Flooding the Lower Lakes with seawater is a drastic measure, and we must have our eyes open to the consequences and the alternatives, and have faith in the assessment process.”

*Senator Birmingham’s letter to Mr Garrett is attached.

Media contact: Senator Birmingham 0404 807 970