Wednesday 13/11/2013 Rob Harris, The Weekly Times
COALITION MPs will raise concerns over the critically endangered listing of lower Murray River when Federal Parliament resumes this week.
Pressure is building on the new Government to reconsider the decision made by Labor to further protect the river – from the junction of the Darling to the sea – on the last day before entering caretaker mode.
Nationals MPs Andrew Broad, Mark Coulton and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce have all publicly criticised Labor's motives while South Australian Liberal Senator Anne Ruston has expressed concerned over the implications to Murray-Darling Basin communities.
The listing, recommended by the Commonwealth's Threatened Species Scientific Committee under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, can be disallowed in the first 15 sitting days of Parliament resuming.
Senator Simon Birmingham, who is speaking for the Coalition on water issues, has promised to consult with stakeholders before forming a position.
The Coalition is genuinely concerned at the process for these listings applied by the previous government, especially their failure to consult adequately and their eleventh hour decision to list just prior to going into caretaker mode, Senator Birmingham said.
The Government has been consulting with a number of interested parties and is reviewing the previous governments decision in line with the required time frame should a decision to disallow these listings be taken.
The Weekly Times understands the Government has asked the departments of Agriculture and Environment for briefings on implications of the measure.
Farming and irrigator groups are concerned the listing, combined with the Basin Plan, and thousands of state and local Government rules, would add further regulation to the system and not add additional value to the environment.
Ricegrowers' Association chairman Les Gordon said the listing was an affront to stakeholders in the basin.
Former Water Minister Mark Butler said at the time the listing was made on sound scientific evidence and would make no difference to stakeholders.
Humane Society International – a US-based environmental activist group that nominated the region and the Macquarie Marshes in central NSW for the listing – has warned the Coalition it would be in unchartered waters if it removed the listings.
HSI Australia director Michael Kennedy said a reversal of the listing would leave the public with little faith in a government's ability to protect our fragile environment when the science clearly warrants it.
The Environmental Defenders Officers and the Australian Conservation Foundation also support the river's listing.