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Murray Darling Basin

Speeches in Parliament
Rachel Siewert 3 Sep 2008

It is interesting to note that I am the only non-South Australian speaking in this debate. I hate to tell the South Australians that this is not just about them-and that comes from somebody who is deeply concerned about the lower lakes and the Coorong. We need to be looking at a whole-of-basin approach to this. I heard Senator Wong talking about the hard choices. No-one has been making these hard choices for a century. We have had state versus state, we have had states versus the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth versus the states, and unfortunately that is still happening. Hard choices! How about the states and the Commonwealth agreeing that the water sharing plans will come into place in 2011 when the cap comes into place? The New South Wales water sharing plans will stay in place until 2014 and the Victorian water sharing plans will stay in place until 2019. How is that going to save the Murray? Where is the sense of urgency? Where are the hard decisions about investing money where it is going to best pay off for the Murray?

Unfortunately, we are still not facing the hard decisions around land capability, around where we are going into the future in a system that is facing crisis-and not just in the Coorong. The Coorong is facing the most immediate crisis and that is where the alarm bell is ringing loudest at the moment; it is also ringing all across the basin. Are the other states pinging Queensland for allowing the Paroo to be developed and for breaking their agreement not to allow development of the Paroo? Is New South Wales looking at where water is being stolen in the Northern Rivers? There is plenty of satellite evidence that shows unregulated use-it is not illegal because New South Wales will not act to make it illegal. Is work being done by New South Wales to start bringing some regulation to the Northern Rivers? Is Victoria dealing with the four per cent cap now that the report that has been leaked shows the economic impact of not raising the four per cent cap? Where are the hard decisions there? Where is the pressure on these states from the Commonwealth to make them reform?

What about the actions that the states have agreed to take under the National Water Initiative? The states are not meeting their agreements under the National Water Initiative-and that has been going for years-let alone coming anywhere close to dealing with the commitments that they made under the COAG agreement. None of that is being delivered. We are not seeing actions from the state governments. We are not seeing enough pressure on the states from the Commonwealth. I would hate to see it if we were acting when there was not a crisis. This is action at a snail's pace and it has been going on for too long. (Time expired)

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