Helen at the rally: Member for Murray Helen Dalton is keeping the pressure on the NSW and Federal Governments to fix the flaws in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
By JOHN DOOLEY
PASSIONATE about the issues surrounding the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), Member for Murray Helen Dalton was at the forefront of the December ‘Can the Plan’ rally, which saw a huge contingent of farmers descend on the national capital to draw attention to the failings of the MDBP.
And it’s an issue and message the MP plans to drive well and truly into the New Year.
Mrs Dalton was in Mildura prior to Christmas to meet with constituents in the Wentworth Shire, and she took time to speak with the Mildura Weekly to discuss a number of issues, including water and the Canberra protest.
“We had a fantastic response. There would have been more than 3000 people in attendance and a convoy that was 30km long,” she said.
“It was really moving to see all of those people assembled. These were people who are very concerned about the issues, not just from within the electorate, but from outside as well, who came to Canberra to voice their concerns.”
The protester’s voices were heard, and they won a small concession, with the Commonwealth Government announcing that it would have an inquiry into the MDBP – headed up by Inspector General Mick Keelty, who will report back to the Government in March.
“I think they were pleased with the result, it was a big crowd and a peaceful crowd, but a noisy crowd, who got their message across loud and clear,” Mrs Dalton said.
“I believe that we will probably have to converge on Canberra again, because by the end of March, I think a lot more people will be involved in the debate, because I don’t think we are going to get the rain, and we’re going to have a really hard summer.
“The flaws of the Murray Darling Basin Plan are going to be highlighted more so with everything that is going on.
“We have more fish kills in Balranald again, and we have a blue-green algae bloom here in Mildura and other towns as well – so it’s very concerning.”
The issue of the lower lakes has again been on the agenda, with strong criticism directed toward South Australia and the water that is being sent to the State during a drought to provide fresh water for lakes that were originally fed from the ocean.
“I wish the game was up for South Australia, but they seem to keep holding firm to their view. We have to get to the bottom of the issue of the lower lakes and get to the truth,” Mrs Dalton said.
“I believe the Murray Darling Basin Plan is predicated on a lie, and the lie is that those lower lakes were fresh water, they’re not. They’re an estuarine-system, and so the Government has really got to change tack.”
Mrs Dalton has been campaigning on the issue of blue-green algae in the river systems, trying to focus Government’s attention on the link that has been drawn between algal blooms and motor neurone disease.
“The State Government needs to commit another $2million to complete a study that has been run from Macquarie University, and they are very reluctant to commit those funds,” she said.
“I think there have been a number of grant applications – 17 or 18 – and they’ve all been knocked back and you would have to ask yourself why.
“We have algal bloom outbreaks in plenty of places in the electorate, including the Murray River in Mildura which has a slick in it.
“Balranald has an amber alert, as does Griffith with their lake – it’s coming up everywhere around the system.
“If there is a link between blue-green algae blooms and motor neurone disease, it will turn the Murray Darling Basin Plan upside down.”
Mrs Dalton said the sentiment on the ground in the electorate, particularly in our region, is gathering momentum around the water issue.
“People of all ages, particularly the older generation, have had enough,” she said. “They’re retired and they don’t need all the angst with it, but they’re so concerned with water management and what’s happening to our communities and our health, that they’re starting to become involved in the argument.
“Some of them said to me that while they didn’t go to Canberra, if there is another rally they would, and asked to be kept informed. So they’re getting pretty angry, along with a lot of other people in the community who are working and living along the rivers.”