In my August 16 blog I welcomed the new, conciliatory tone towards the States over the Murray-Darling Basin plan from MDBA Chairman Craig Knowles.
Knowles, himself a former NSW state water minister, had publically acknowledged “…the expertise of the states in water management, and their willingness to cooperate in a forward program of work”.
Well, it seems like that was a short marriage, or at least a honeymoon that has ended with a big argument (a bit like when you let slip something you have always thought, but should never have said, about your new spouse’s mother’s cooking)
Speaking yesterday at a major MDB local government conference Knowles is reported as saying that “a lack of cooperation (with the States) has hindered the drafting of the plan for the management of the Murray-Darling”.
“The people of Australia expect a partnership (and they) expect their governments to do better on something as fundamentally important as the strength and survival of some communities in regional Australia because of water availability”, ABC News on-line quotes Knowles at the Murray-Darling Basin Assocaition conference.
Hardly the sort of conciliatory language I was expecting after Knowles so recently embraced the States and their new “willingness to cooperate”.
Knowles apparently went on to say that “This plan had to involve the states, their knowledge, their history, and their capacity to be partners”. But, at least as reported in the media, this risks sounding more coercive than cooperative.
I said in August that “… anything that Knowles can do to re-build the relationship(s) (with the States) will be fundamental to getting a good outcome. As much, if not more so, than the need to get support from irrigators and the public.”
I believe Craig Knowles remains committed to a cooperative approach with the States. Certainly he has done a lot of good in his comparatively short tenure to recover the planning process from the damage done by the ill-fated MDB Guide last year. But this kind of public statement can’t help but rekindle resentment back in the state water HQs in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.