Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rudd's Short Term Inaction

The Federal Liberal/national Coalition has criticised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd over his handling of flows in the Murray-Darling Basin. The ABC reported it as "an illusion of government action". Earlier this year the Federal Labor Government completed an agreement with the states; an agreement that the previous Coalition Government, under John Howard, did nothing for 11 years, and was unable to bring to fruition at the last minute.

The Coalition now says (without John Howard) that the agreement will not increase flows to the ailing system, but fails to indicate what would be required. What is required is significant rainfall, and a fundamental restructuring of some irrigation-based farming industries. Questions about the wisdom of growing high-water-use crops such as rice and cotton in dry, inland Australia need to be addressed. So too, do questions about the amount of water that properties can farm out of the system. Cubbie Station, in SW Queensland, has previously been named as a cause of significantly reduced flows into the upper Darling River.

Again, the ABC reported Mr Rudd as saying:

"Medium term, the Basin plan and Basin cap and a more aggressive approach to the purchasing of licences" and "Longer term, acting responsibly nationally and globally on climate change. That's our three-phase strategy."

The Government would be buying back (irrigation) water licences - but not yet. But medium and long-term policies are not enough. Mr Rudd, as part of his responses to Climate Change, Environmental concerns, farming practices and regional planning needs short-term responses as well. He needs to have some actions now, for the sake of people who live and work there, and for all Australians.