Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent, but for too long, we have taken fresh water for granted. Now, drought and climate change are causing massive hardship. Urgent action is needed from all governments, all industry and all Australians to change the way we use and value water. We use more water per head of population than any other country on the planet. Our limited water supplies have been over-allocated, undervalued and misdirected – right across our nation. For Australians to adjust to climate change and continue to prosper, our attitude and behaviour towards water must change. We are running out of time.
The Federal Government has an important leadership role in ensuring each and every Australian, wherever they live, has a secure supply of water. We must ensure more efficient water use in our cities, our towns and on our farms to improve water security and to protect our stressed river systems and our environment. To do this Australia needs a national water plan.
This is not just another drought. This is a national crisis, and it has not occurred overnight.
The Prime Minister has ignored water issues and denied climate change for 11 years, and is only now taking an interest - just before an election. On 25 January, the Prime Minister announced the $10 Billion National Plan for Water Security – and he did so without consulting his Cabinet, the Treasury, the National Water Commission, our farmers, or our State and Territory Governments.
The Prime Minister got the headline right, but the detail wrong. The Government’s latest Budget revealed that only $53.8 million - or one half of one per cent - of the $10 billion, has been committed this financial year to begin reversing over-allocation of water entitlements and modernising farm irrigation.1 This is woefully inadequate. Given the immediate crisis, funding to sort out the problems in the Murray-Darling basin should be front end–loaded, not geared to the last seven years of the Howard 10-year plan, as the Government proposes.