Greens and Libs in love-fest
Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-05-11
You don’t often see a love-in between the Liberal/National coalition, the Greens and independents with the ALP left out in the cold, do you? Yet this happened with the following preamble to the minority section of the report (2008-05-08) from the Senate Inquiry into the Water Amendment (Saving the Goulburn and Murray Rivers) Bill 2008.
All non-Government Senators participating in this inquiry, representing the Liberal and National Parties, the Australian Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon, share a strong consensus that:
Unlike the Carbon Pollution Reward Scheme, where Greens and Coalition both disagreed with Labor for exactly opposite reasons, the Greens and the Coalition were singing from the same song sheet.
The bill was put up by SA Liberal Senator Birmingham, in an attempt to protect the water in the Murray-Goulburn basin by outlawing new extractions for use outside the basin, (including the hated Brumby "North-South"/"Sugarloaf" pipeline) and received overwhelming support in submissions.
The committee ALP majority report boils down to "All the way with Brumby – because he is such a trustworthy guy – so the bill should be rejected".
The minority report detailed the public call for the bill to be passed (ahem, look at the first member of the public they quote on p19), and made three excellent recommendations:
- Non-Government Senators recommend that the bill be passed and that water from the Murray-Darling Basin not be taken from application to new purposes outside of the basin.
- That an independent audit by an expert agency such as CSIRO be undertaken into the water savings claimed by the Victorian Government to justify the construction and operation of the Sugarloaf Pipeline.
- Construction of the Sugarloaf Pipeline should cease forthwith and be abandoned in favour of alternative water security strategies for Melbourne and the return of all water savings under NVIRP to irrigators or the environment.
Of course, if the Federal and Victorian ALP governments felt they were innocent, then how could they object to the audit recommended by the minority report? I’d like to see such an audit happen, have a pretty good idea what it would say, and therefore know that no such audit will happen.
With any luck, the Greens might have learnt from the Libs how to put together a tightly reasoned report, rather than the Green’s usual productions that are so easily labelled "sloganeering".
With any luck, the Liberals (through rising moderate Birmingham) might have learnt how to take scientifically-justified stances on environmental issues.
If the non-government parties have a single political clue between them, they’ll be touting their unified stance to the public, which would benefit the Greens directly at the expense of the ALP primary vote, and the Liberal/National coalition indirectly. If they can show "the Emperor has no clothes" on environmental issues, maybe the KRudd government might act more responsibly.
So, any guesses as to why the Federal ALP would go completely against public opinion, and the agreed position of the right and green wings of Australian politics?
- Penny Wong made a 2009-05-06 ministerial media release that talked about all the extra water going into the Murray-Goulburn basin, and didn’t mention the Birmingham bill: funny about that! And this approach a few days after launching an inquiry into why the Murray-Goulburn has a blue algae problem.
- The ABC reports on the committee majority view (2008-05-08)
- "Saving the Goulburn-Murray Bill: Overwhelming Support" (2009-02-07) provides a breakdown of the submissions (as of the day after submissions closed – 3 have been published since, but the overall picture remains the same).
- "Brumby’s Nightmare: A Cth bill to stop his pipeline" (2008-05-08)
- "Will Ted Ballieu help himself?" (2009-01-04) wondered if Ballieu was smart enough to get this issue in the media. He wasn’t. Doesn’t he recognize a gift of a important wedge issue with a popular and sensible stance for his party when he sees one? Will he use the opportunity of a Greens/Coalition unified position?
- Meanwhile, the report from the inquiry in Victoria about Brumby’s water plans is still unpublished – even though the reporting date had been pushed back until nearly two years after it was referred to committee and the "extended" due date was last month – which gives you an idea how explosive it must be for the Victorian ALP government. See "How to bury a parliamentary inquiry – delay reporting" (2008-12-22) and related posts.