Abbott pledges $751m for Murray

A coalition government will spend $751.


5 million over four years to help the rivers in the ailing Murray-Darling Basin, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

“The future of the Murray-Darling should not and cannot be a choice between the environment or agriculture,” Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said near the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia on Wednesday.

“We will end the delays, act on the concerns of basin communities and end the blatant politicking that has spoiled so many previous efforts at water reform.”

The coalition will also commit an additional $300 million to invest in rural water infrastructure. Mr Abbott said that was a crucial step in saving water for the environment while keeping economic engines at the basin alive.

On Tuesday, Labor committed an unknown amount of money to provide the rivers with all the water determined by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

How much water that will be won’t be known until the authority releases a discussion paper following the August 21 poll.

“Australians need food to eat, people in Adelaide need water to drink, the environment needs water to sustain it,” Mr Abbott told reporters.

The coalition would kick-start its original plan for the basin that had “basically been stalled for three years” following Labor’s 2007 election win.

Mr Abbott said the coalition would spend $400 million on NSW’s Menindee Lakes, a far cry from Labor’s pledge of just $100 million.

The second important feature of the coalition plan was to get water “straight away” into the Coorong near the mouth of the Murray River.

“We will buy 150 billion litres of water on the short-term water market,” Mr Abbott said. “One hundred billion of those litres will go into the Coorong.”

Mr Abbott said it would be the most significant inflow of fresh water in the wetlands in a decade.

“This is a good day for the people of Adelaide and everyone who wants to see comprehensive management of water in the Murray Darling-Basin,” he said.

Opposition water spokesman Barnaby Joyce said the coalition plan was the culmination of a lot of hard work and visits to town in three states.

“We have put together a program of $400 million to help those towns that have been left behind,” he told reporters.

“As Julia Gillard moves forward, she is leaving people behind everywhere.”

Senator Joyce said Labor paid $23.75 million for a property (Toorale Station near Bourke in north-western NSW) without inspection and without realising it didn’t actually deliver water into the Darling (River).

“This is the sort of incompetence we expect from Labor,” he said.

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