The Australian Greens today released the proposed terms of reference for an urgent Senate inquiry aimed at delivering water to the Coorong and lower lakes of the Murray River before Christmas.
"Water Minister Penny Wong has given up - but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must not. Immediate action is what is required to give the Coorong a drink before Christmas," Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said, speaking at the mouth of the Murray today.
Senator Brown said the inquiry would focus on emergency, short-term action that could deliver water to the parched river mouth and its precious environment and he expected the inquiry to gain the support of the whole Senate.
"The Murray lakes and Coorong wetlands can not be allowed to die. The Greens, through the Senate committee system, will assist Prime Minister Rudd to identify how much water is available, how the Federal Government can obtain it, how it can be transported down the river, and any barriers to making it happen," Senator Brown said.
South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said that the cry for help from South Australia and the Murray communities was being heard around the country.
"South Australians know how important the Murray is to our communities and to the country. Now we need the Federal Government to recognise that letting the Coorong dry out, or be flooded with sea-water, will devastate not only the Ramsar-listed Coorong ecosystem, but will flow on to fundamentally change the economic and social fabric of the Murray communities," Senator Hanson-Young said.
The Greens will move for the inquiry on Tuesday 26 August, with a view to the committee reporting back no later than 30 September 2008. South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has agreed to co-sponsor the motion.
For more information phone Gemma Clark on 0427 604 760
Urgent provision of water to the Coorong and Lower Lakes
Proposed Terms of Reference
That the Rural and Regional Committee report to the Senate, urgently, but no later than 30 September 2008 on the following:
A) The volume of water which could be provided into the Murray-Darling system to replenish the lower lakes and Coorong;
B) Options for sourcing and delivering this water, including:
i) Possible incentive and compensation schemes for current water holders who participate in a once-off voluntary contribution of water to this national emergency;
ii) Alternative options for the once-off compulsory acquisition of sufficient water if voluntary contributions are not sufficient;
iii) Likely transmission losses and the most efficient and effective strategies to manage the delivery of this water;
iv) Commonwealth powers to obtain and deliver water and possible legislative or regulatory impediments;
C) And any other related matters.