Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the federal Water Minister’s vision of a more water-secure Murray-Darling Basin in ten years’ time will remain a fantasy if current practices and attitudes to water continue.
Water Minister Penny Wong yesterday said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia conference that, in a decade’s time, the Murray-Darling Basin’s rivers and wetlands will resemble their natural state and domestic water restrictions could be eased.
“Minister Wong’s dream for the Murray-Darling Basin’s water future will remain just that – a lovely dream – if current water practices and attitudes continue,” said Senator Hanson-Young.
“The Water Minister’s Government just handed down a Budget that provided little evidence of a brighter future for the Murray-Darling Basin.
“The news of the extra $228 million in Budget funds for Adelaide’s desalination plant was promptly received by the South Australian Premier as a sign that Adelaide’s water supply would be guaranteed ‘for decades to come’, as he irresponsibly stated, signalling ‘the end of household water restrictions’.
“Even the subsequent qualification that Premier Rann meant ‘punitive’ water restrictions does not unmuddle the mixed messages coming out of the State and Federal Governments about the need for all to be water-wise for a sustainable future.
“These are mixed messages in the eyes of all who have been striving to be more water-conscious, from the irrigators who have had to meet water efficiency demands, to schoolchildren who are learning how to waterproof their future.
“The Federal Government must make clear to the South Australian Government that its Budget funds were not provided so that Adelaide could splash around its new, expensive, energy-intensive, effluent-producing water supply, especially given the growing challenges presented by climate change.”
Senator Hanson-Young said she would be seeking clarification from the Water Minister and her Department in next fortnight’s Budget Estimates about how the Budget’s water provisions will create the vision described by Minister Wong yesterday.
“Last week I asked the Water Minister if she endorsed Premier Rann’s assertions about removing water restrictions, and she refused to distance herself his foolish comments,” she said.
“The Greens will seek to clarify the mixed messages emanating from the State and Federal Labor Governments on water in the Estimates process.”