Reports today from the NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair that there have been more fish kills across the State, including on the NSW-Victorian border at Lake Hume, are unacceptable.
This ecological disaster is now becoming a national emergency. The Australian Government needs to act now.
The reports of a new fish kills surfaced soon after it was revealed that the NSW Water Minister did not know about the Government’s “emergency meeting” that Ministers, including the Federal Water Minister, won’t attend.
Minister Blair is quoted in Fairfax Media saying:
"It was all news to us"
"I'm at a bit of a loss - what is it going to do?"
It is astounding that the NSW Water Minister doesn’t know why the meeting is happening. It is also being reported the reason the Federal Minister hasn’t visited affected areas is because he is travelling to Germany.
On Monday, the Shadow Minister for Environment and Water visited Menindee to inspect the disaster first hand, and to meet with locals. The Prime Minister must direct his Water Minister to do the same.
Labor has written to the Government requesting an urgent scientific taskforce to immediately get to the bottom of how this unfolding disaster has taken place. This review was to be focussed on the Darling River and Menindee. It now needs to include the latest fish kills.
Labor has offered to support the findings of the scientific review and if that means urgent changes to legislation, we will support that.
But Australia also needs the Prime Minister to show leadership:
- if reports are true, recall his Water Minister from Germany and direct him to visit affected areas;
- respond to Labor’s calls for a science taskforce, and establish and resource taskforce so it can report to Parliament;
- identify actions that can be taken now to prevent further fish kills, including where there is water in the system; and
- make available the full resources of the Commonwealth to help with river clean up as this is no longer just a matter for NSW.
Once we know all the facts the Prime Minister needs to convene an emergency meeting of Basin State leaders.
While acknowledging the drought is extreme, the nature of this is unprecedented and requires an immediate national response informed by experts.
At a time when a national emergency is developing, the Prime Minister, the Federal Water Minister and even the Government’s special envoy on drought, are nowhere to be seen.
TUESDAY, 15 JANUARY 2019