Wednesday, 13 April 2011 14:00

Nobody wins when Govt in two minds

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THE FEDERAL Government seems to have two gears – flat out and stationary.

When it comes to finalising the Murray-Darling Basin Plan it is moving at breakneck pace to get legislation written and tabled this year – despite community pleas to slow down to ensure everyone’s views are considered.

When it comes to action on last year’s Senate Inquiry into competition and pricing in the Australian dairy industry, the gear stick is still in park.

A spokesman for MP David Bradbury – parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer – told Dairy News the Government will continue to consider the recommendations made by the Senate Committee, as well as the current inquiry that is due to report in April, and formally respond in “due course”.

That’s 12 months worth of consideration since last year’s recommendations were tabled in parliament! Yet something tells us we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for the Government to make a move.

And if it has taken that long for a Government response on the initial inquiry, it doesn’t bode well for a speedy response to the current inquiry.

Northern dairy farmers are losing money as a direct result of Coles cutting prices and the Government continues to sit on its hands.

In stark contrast, Prime Minister Gillard has shown no signs of deviating from the original Murray Darling Basin Plan deadline this year. The draft plan is expected to be published this year and the Prime Minister has said Water Minister Tony Burke will sign off a plan later in the year.

The Victorian and NSW Governments, and key irrigation groups, have asked for the current guide to Basin Plan – which calls for a diversion of 3000-7600 gigalitres of irrigation water – to be re-drafted. They claim the drought-breaking rain across the country over summer has provided enough water for the Murray-Darling Basin for a couple of years. This provides the time to enable all parties to work on a consensual plan, they claim.

So what’s the rush?

Burke and new MDBA chairman Craig Knowles have publicly questioned the Water Act, which they say gives the environment precedence over all. Meanwhile, the CSIRO has attacked the credibility of the “science” behind the required diversion figures outlined in the plan.

Pushing a new plan through without proper consultation will damage any chances of securing the health of both the river system and rural communities. It’s a balancing act that will require time and careful consideration.

Unfortunately, neither appear likely from the Government.

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