Green issues over River Murray water are making dry Liberals see blue.

Are 500 gigalitres of water coming to wash a few South Australian Liberal MPs away?

Croweaters live in the driest state in the driest continent – and Liberal MPs from the state will find their votes will dry up if the
locals think they’re being cheated of water.

The health of the River Murray is a very sensitive local issue, as federal Liberal MPs were reminded yesterday.

At the centre of it all was the Member for Barker, Patrick Secker. His newly redistributed seat takes in many of the town along the
River – and he also sits on a parliamentary committee that has recommended that 500 gigalitres not be released into the Murray
because the benefits can’t be proven.

The state Labor Environment Minister, John Hill, lit the wick on Secker’s political career on Monday when he said: “He’s supporting
the committee. Well, if that’s the case, he has signed his political death notice.”

Secker tried to dampen things down – but instead seemed to be wanting things both ways when he told the ABC:

“In reality I don’t think that will happen but I think that it was a message from this committee, this bipartisan committee, to say well
please be a bit careful about what you’re doing with water flows because you could actually have harmful consequences as a result of
making decisions before you’ve got all the relevant information.”

The Nats then got involved. There is only one South Australian MP from the National Party, Karlene Maywald – and no Coalition. She
sits on the crossbenches, relations between her and the Libs are often strained – and she represents many of the towns along the
Murray Secker hopes to, too.

She’s also thinking of contesting Barker at the federal election.

“So you know you have to ask yourself which rock this committee’s just hooked out from underneath,” she said. “There is enough
evidence out there to sink three battleships that the River Murray is under stress… that the river is over allocated… that we need more
water for environmental flows. And anyone who can stand up there and put their hand on their heart and say that’s not the case obviously hasn’t visited Chowilla. They haven’t visited a number of the areas along the river that actually demonstrate quite clearly you don’t need more science, you need to open your eyes.”

With an attack like that, she was asked the obvious. Does she plan to run against Secker?

Her reply?

“Certainly issues like this do spur me on to give it a go given that this such an important issue to South Australia.”

Yipes. The federal Libs have got three marginals to worry about in South Australia. They don’t want to have to fight for a safe seat,
too.

The boundaries of Barker have been significantly redrawn. A very popular local MP running on a very sensitive local issue could give
South Australia a Peter Andren of its own.

Another South Australian fed whose new electorate boundaries take in some of the Murray, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, showed just how serious the matter is when he gushed in a statement:

“Personally, I reject the recommendations of the committee … on postponing extra flows.

“We have had enough inquiries, enough reports – what the river needs is greater environmental flows.

“The decision to provide an extra 500 gigalitres has been made by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council under the national water
initiative – endorsed by federal and state governments.

“This initiative will not be postponed or overturned.”

Poor Patrick’s a factional friend of his. He most love Downer. Will the Murray’s flow leave the local Liberals high and dry?

Peter Fray

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