17 September 2003

ABC News - Murray report withheld

A scientific report on the impacts of sending environmental flows down the Murray River has been withheld from the public.

Scientists in the Murray Darling Basin have been working on the impacts of returning 350, 750 or 1,500 megalitres of water to the river for the past six months, as part of the Living Murray proposal.

But the Murray Darling Basin Commission will not release the report until after its Ministerial Council meets in November, three months later than originally expected.

The move has outraged Environment Victoria's Dr Paul Sinclair.

'I don't know who wins from keeping people in the dark about what the environmental benefits of returning water to the river are,' he said.

'I don't know who wins from that. Maybe there's some deep, dark secrets in the government bureaucracy that we don't know about.'

But the Murray Darling Basin Commission is defending its decision to withhold the report.

Deputy chief executive Kevin Goss says the process has been changed to fit in with the Federal Government's $500 million national water initiative, which was agreed to at this year's COAG meeting.

The national water initiative provides environmental flows that are less than the commission's own estimate for a moderate chance of restoring the basin. Without another explanation it's hard not to think that the main reason is spin in favour of concealing the inadequacies of the initiative.

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