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River Murray Forum « Previous | |Next »
February 25, 2003

Blogging has been light today because I have been at a River Murray Forum in Old Parliament House in Adelaide. All the movers and shakers were there plus the usual clique of characters that turn up to such shows or events. I was there as an observer (in the gallery) but observers were given an opportunity to ask some questions.

The Forum was organized by the SA Government to achieve a consensus position by SA politicians on the River, which the Rann Government would take to the next CoAG meeting in October. It planned to bang the table with the communique to get some action on the 1500 gigalitres of environmental flows that the river requires for moderate health. It wanted urgent action to restore the health of the Murray, including an immediate additional flow of 500 gigalitres.

The Forum laboured passionately and mightly throughout the day. It argued about a national crisis caused by the River Murray no longer being a functioning river due to the over-allocation of water for consumptive use in the Basin. It was agreed that the restoration of any additional flow will require a substantial transfer of rights from consumptive users to the environmental uses; and that this would require a robust water entitlement and allocation system upon which a fexible water market could be built. Fervent speeches were made about co-operation, bipartisanship and resolute leadership.

What was produced was a damp communique that said very little apart from the usual motherhood statements. Though the SA Government wanted urgent action nothing was said about what SA would do as a basin partner to clawback water: all attempts to get some tough action into the document was resisted in the name of achieving consensus between the different political parties. All that the SA politicians could come up with was that SA 'would contribute to environmental flows, develop a water entitlement system for the basin and conserve water. ' Great leadership huh?

So the message that SA was sending to the basin states was that it was not willing to show leadership in terms of resolute action, that it expected the other states to make the first moves and that it is reform shy.

Great passion on the floor. Spin at the end. Consensus politics produced a document that was greeted with an embarrased silence when it was read out. 'All that work for this?', was the public feeling After a long 20-30 secs there was a few polite claps. Then a few minor adjustments, and off the pollies went for a group photo on the steps of Parliament House.

Nothing much happened. It was a talk fest. So there was little media coverage.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:58 PM | | Comments (1)


Have you any WMD over there. (Woomera - a bit suss) We might need to stop this agitation for the return of your water pretty soon. You might be better off that things are only damp over there.