Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Murray Darling Basin plan – water allocation

E&OE transcript
Interview with ABC AM Program
07 October 2010

PETER CAVE: The Water Minister, Tony Burke, says he won't confirm the now widely leaked reports of cuts to allocations.

He spoke to Sabra Lane.

TONY BURKE: What needs to be remembered when this document does come out on Friday afternoon is it is not a final plan, it's a guide to a draft of the plan.

There's a long task consultation between now and the end of next year.

The plan in its final form is an instrument that has to be tabled before the Parliament and the consultation that goes on throughout this entire period is going to be real, it's going to matter. It's not only going to affect irrigators, it's also the issue of environmental flows, there's also the impact on communities.

REPORTER: A number of papers have these figures today; they seem to have been comprehensively leaked.

Irrigators are quite upset; they've said that cuts of this magnitude would kill communities in the basin.

TONY BURKE: One of the concerns that I've been wanting to look at since I came into this portfolio is the compensation programs that we've dealt with today have largely dealt with the irrigators themselves.

Now one of the challenges there is there's a presumption that if you give the irrigator money when they voluntarily sell some of their water entitlements that somehow that money automatically flows through to the rest of the community, that's not always the case.

What we have in many instances is somebody will choose to get out of irrigation they will voluntarily sell their water and we only buy water from willing sellers.

But sometimes the person then sells up altogether, leaves the community and all that money and the jobs that used to go with it leave the community too.

REPORTER: Has the social wellbeing of communities been measured in this report or are you largely expecting that to come through these consultations that will happen now?

TONY BURKE: As I say the report belongs to the independent authority not to me so I'm going to leave it to the independent authority to release on Friday afternoon the precise contents of the report and I'm not going to be going what's in and what's out.

REPORTER: But you've seen the report though.

TONY BURKE: I've been briefed on the report and certainly I am observing the confidentiality of the briefings that I've been part of.

REPORTER: Farmers do acknowledge that there needs to be an adjustment of the allocations but they fear that the pendulum has swung too far to the environment. Is that your reading?

TONY BURKE: Certainly there's common ground with everybody that we want a healthy river, there is an acceptance from all the irrigation groups that I've met with that we have had over allocation and over allocation pretty much across every catchment.

We want to find efficiencies wherever we can, whether they're efficiencies on farm or whether they're trying to make sure that we look after some of the environmental assets more efficiently.

PETER CAVE: Federal Water Minister Tony Burke speaking there to Sabra Lane.