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National water crisis: Prime Minister missing in inaction

Media Release: 3 August 2009

In response to today's news that the Queensland government is still considering activating sleeper licences to the Cooper Creek system, the coordinator of Fair Water Use (Australia), Dr Ian Douglas, is today reported as saying: "The Rudd Government stands condemned for its failure to put an end to the dysfunctional and conflicting governance arrangements that have brought the Murray-Darling to its knees."

He went on to say that "State premiers and water-ministers show no interest in looking at the big-picture and addressing the ever-increasing threat to Australia's water future."

Dr Douglas indicated that the evidence of the chaos continues to build chronologically:

  • The Victorian Government's imposition of a 4% cap on the trading of
    water licences out of the state
  • Commencement of construction of the North-South Pipeline by the Brumby Government, a project described by the Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the President of the United Nations General Assembly as "about the stupidest idea that has ever been conceived"
  • The decision of the Rann Government in SA to pursue High Court action against the Victorian cap
  • The declaration of an NSW embargo on trading of water licences to prevent further purchase of environmental water by the Federal Government
  • The statement by NSW Premier Rees that his government may join its SA counterpart in the High Court challenge
  • The announcement by Victorian Premier Brumby of a slow and partial phase-out of the 4% cap in return for a $ 300 million cash pay-out from the Commonwealth
  • Confirmation by SA Premier Rann that his government intends to persist with its High Court challenge
  • The NSW government's auction of water rights to the groundwater of the Great Artesian Basin, in direct conflict with the Federal Government's Cap-and-Pipe initiative
  • The environmental havoc being wreaked as a resul t of the Rann Government's construction of water-regulators in the Lower Lakes
  • The Queensland government's reported intention to activating sleeper licences to the Cooper Creek system, which may have major environmental consequences and threaten the public water supply to the South Australian outback community of Innamincka

Dr Douglas' statement concluded: "Fair Water Use will continue to lobby Mr Rudd until he supplies answers to vital questions that we and the senior water advisor to the United Nations have been asking him for many months; questions that all concerned Australians are entitled to pose", namely:

  1. Whether his Government is giving urgent consideration to the declaration of a State of Emergency to enable it to override the self interest of the States and allow meaningful action to be taken to address the multiple, non-drought, causes of the crisis?
  2. Whether his Government is giving urgent consideration to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Enquiry into the management and governance of the Murray-Darling Basin: past, present and future?
  3. If he is not contemplating the above actions, would he please detail the reasons why he believes that the crisis does not warrant such an approach?

See also: "Qld Govt told to keep hands off SA water" on the ABC on 3 Aug 09, "Artesian basin water auction sells out environment and farmers" of  Jul 09, "'Last undefiled waterway' threatened" by Asa Wahlquist in The Australian of 13 Jul 09,

Contact: Ian Douglas (National Coordinator)
+61 (0)416-022178

Authorised by: Ginny Brown
Media Coordinator media[AT]

Fair Water Use (Australia)