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Senate supports Save the Coorong inquiry

Media Release
Bob Brown 27 Aug 2008

The Greens say a landmark agreement by all sides of politics to urgently investigate how to save the Coorong and lower lakes of the Murray can be a blueprint for future action by the Senate.

Greens Senator for South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young today moved that the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee “urgently inquire into the availability of water for the Murray River’s lower lakes and Coorong regions, to save our Storm Boy country”, which was supported unanimously.

“Today we moved from talk to action to save a national icon and help Australians in need. There’s nothing Australians can’t achieve when all sides of politics work together,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

The motion for the Inquiry was co-sponsored by Greens Senators Rachel Siewert and Bob Brown, as well as South Australian Senators Nick Xenophon, Simon Birmingham and Mary Jo Fisher.

“The multi-party support indicates the scope of this environmental crisis. It shows acceptance by all sides of politics that we have to act,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“There is an opportunity for water holders throughout the entire system to provide the water needed to address this crisis, with compensation systems to be investigated to ensure their water needs are met in the future,” said Senator Rachel Siewert.

“Now all the states must also get behind this initiative.”

Senator Hanson-Young’s moving of the Senate Inquiry motion was her first act in parliament, following her swearing-in as a new Senator yesterday.

“Now that the Inquiry can get underway, the focus will turn to how the Senate can assist the Government to locate, purchase and transmit water to the Coorong before Christmas,” she said.

“Finally we are starting to see the political will that is so desperately needed to save our Storm Boy country.”

The Inquiry’s terms of reference follow.
For more information: Gemma Clark on 0427 604 760

Urgent provision of water to the Coorong and Lower Lakes
Senators Hanson-Young, Brown, Siewert, Xenophon, Birmingham and Fisher

  1. That the Rural and Regional Committee report to the Senate, urgently, but no later than 30 September 2008 on the following:
    1. The volume of water which could be provided into the Murray-Darling system to replenish the lower lakes and Coorong;
    2. Options for sourcing and delivering this water, including:
      1. Possible incentive and compensation schemes for current water holders who participate in a once-off voluntary contribution of water to this national emergency;
      2. Alternative options for the acquisition of sufficient water;
      3. Likely transmission losses and the most efficient and effective strategies to manage the delivery of this water;
      4. Commonwealth powers to obtain and deliver water and possible legislative or regulative impediments;
      5. Assessment of the potential contribution of bringing forward irrigation infrastructure spending under the COAG agreement to deliver water to save the Coorong and lower lakes;
    3. The impact of any water buybacks on rural and regional communities and Adelaide including compensation and structural adjustment; and
    4. Any other related matters.
  2. That the Rural and Regional Committee report to the Senate no later than 4 December 2008 on implications for the long-term sustainable management of the Murray Darling Basin system of the following:
    1. The adequacy of current whole-of-basin governance arrangements under the Intergovernmental Agreement;
    2. The adequacy of current arrangements in relation to the [implementation of] the Basin Plan and water sharing arrangements;
    3. Long-term prospects for the management of RAMSAR wetlands including the supply of adequate environmental flows;
    4. The risks to the basin posed by unregulated water interception activities and water theft;
    5. The ability of the Commonwealth to bind State and Territory Governments to meet their obligations [under the National Water Initiative]
    6. The adequacy of existing State and Territory water and natural resource management legislation and enforcement arrangements;
    7. The impacts of climate change on the likely future availability of water.
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