Murray concerns expressed in Canberra
Updated: 14:15, Wednesday March 21, 2012
A fisherman and a pistachio grower from South Australia have come to Canberra to tell the prime minister of their concerns for the future of the Murray-Darling Basin.
Fourth-generation fisherman Henry Jones barbecued mulloway, caught from the Murray River mouth, on the front lawns of Parliament House on Wednesday.
Later he listed several varieties of fish that were now extinct because of the river’s poor health.
Behind him stood several politicians, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, independent senator Nick Xenophon and Water Minister Tony Burke.
Mr Jones disputed the usefulness of a draft plan for the basin.
He said the measures in the plan would not be enough to flush out the two million tonnes of salt that flowed down the basin each year, 70 per cent of which was from interstate.
‘It’s Australia’s responsibility to get rid of that and put it out the mouth,’ he told reporters.
Pistachio grower David Peake, from Swan Reach, said he had not harvested a single pistachio nut during four years of drought, but had just had a record crop.
He was worried about the next drought.
After declaring the Murray Darling Basin Authority wasn’t listening to the concerns of South Australians, he turned to Ms Gillard and said: ‘Prime minister, I’m sure that some of your government departments aren’t listening either.’
Ms Gillard said the government was determined to work with South Australians to ensure the good health of the river.
‘I know what it is like to live in Adelaide during days of dreadful drought,’ she said.
‘I know what it is like to worry about the health of the river Murray, to worry about its mouth being closed, to worry about salinity.’
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown repeated his party’s line that a minimum 4000 gigalitres of water was needed to restore the basin to good health.
A 20-week consultation process on the authority’s draft plan for management of the basin ends in mid-April.
Mr Burke will then take a final draft plan to federal parliament.
‘This is an important input into that,’ he said of views put forward by Mr Jones, Mr Peake and Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry on Wednesday.