A once-mighty, once-wild river system that sweeps through four states and a territory. One of this country's most valuable natural assets -- for the environment and for agriculture. The Murray-Darling Basin. Let down by a century of greed, politics, parochial planning and the worst excesses of a federal system which pits neighbour against neighbour. When the record-breaking drought struck earlier this century, the Murray-Darling had nothing to fight it with. As Crikey hit deadline federal Environment Minister Tony Burke is releasing his decision on the long-awaited plan to better manage the system. As he told the ABC this morning:
"But as soon as I'm satisfied with it I don't intend to delay. We've had delay for roughly a century, a little bit longer, and I've got no interest in adding another day to that."
This issue is far too important to lose in the usual mess of politics, lawyers and hyperbole. Securing a better deal for the Basin will take compromise, it will require trade-offs. There will be howls of criticism this afternoon; they will dominate much of the media coverage. Maybe it's time to ignore them and focus on the facts, the options and the art of the possible. The Murray-Darling has been short-changed for decades. Its time has come. We either address this now, or we leave our greatest river system out to dry when the next drought hits.