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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Minister forAgriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Warren Truss

1 April 2005

Cuts to MDBC budget jeopardise River Murray health

Today's decision to slash the budget of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission will delay or put at risk a range of vital environmental projects in the Basin, the Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Warren Truss, and the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

The decision comes following insistence by New South Wales that it would only contribute funding to the Commission at 2003-04 levels for the 2005-06 year. All other states and territories except Victoria were prepared to make higher contributions to help keep the Commission's busy work program on schedule.

"As a result, contributions to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) will fall from a proposed $100.3 million to $88 million during the next financial year," Minister Truss said.

"Without adequate funding, the Commission will be unable to fund agreed programs to reduce salinity levels and to boost delivery of environmental and water management projects to the Murray-Darling Basin."

Mr Truss said the MDBC would draw on its last remaining reserves and some carryover funds in an attempt to reduce the impact of the budget cuts.

"If such low budget contributions were to continue into future years, the Commission's capital works program would soon cease.

Senator Campbell said: "This is simply not good enough, and it comes at a time when several MDB Initiative programs - including the $150 million Environmental Works and Measures Program - are about to ramp up their construction phase."

The MDBC has advised that around $12 million worth of programs and projects will be delayed or reduced in scope to meet the budget requirements, including:

In spite of their public commitment to the environment, the decision demonstrates a lack of real commitment to the Living Murray on the part of some states, Mr Truss and Senator Campbell said.

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Sen Campbell) (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Tim Langmead (Mr Truss) (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433

Commonwealth of Australia