Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Five days to go and Tony Abbott still silent on river reform

Media release
12 April 2012

Five days to go and still no word from Tony Abbott on whether the Coalition will support water reform for the Murray Darling Basin.

Mr Abbott tells people who want less water for the environment not to worry because he won't support a bad plan and then tells those who want more water returned to the rivers to not worry because he'll only support a good plan.

So far no one has a clue what Tony Abbott's cute political tactic actually means other than making sure that no matter what the final plan looks like, he has an excuse to vote no.

The Murray Darling basin is too important for these games. If his support is conditional he can't keep the conditions secret.

Instead, we've been getting one message from Simon Birmingham in South Australia and another from Barnaby Joyce in the north of the Basin.

Barnaby Joyce seems to have become the puppet master of water policy for the Coalition. He has Tony Abbott's ear and yet is never seen in South Australia.

If Tony Abbott had won the last election Barnaby Joyce would be the Water Minister right now. That means fronting up and saying what you believe not hiding behind a curtain pulling the strings.

In a rare appearance this morning on Adelaide radio, Barnaby Joyce complained that he wasn't invited to the meeting I'm attending tonight.

It would be news to every journalist in Australia that Barnaby will now only do media events if he is sent an invitation. Someone who will leap in front of a camera at every possible opportunity has a very different approach when it comes to water reform.

Importantly, with only five days in the public consultation to go we need serious commitments from the major parties that they will support water reform.

The worst result for the Basin is for there to be no national plan.

Labor has committed to supporting the plan in Parliament. Labor will be supporting a Plan that restores our rivers to health, delivers strong regional communities and sustainable food production.

It is time for the Coalition to do the same.