Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The Hon. C.L. WINGARD (Gibson—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing) (16:45): I rise today to speak in support of this motion put forward by the Premier that notes:

That this house—

1. Notes the following reports:

(a) the Productivity Commission Inquiry report dated 19 December 2018: 'Murray-Darling Basin Plan: five-year assessment'; and

(b) Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission Report.

2. Supports the Premier's request to the Prime Minister for a meeting of COAG Murray-Darling Basin first ministers to consider these reports and a response to their findings and recommendations.

3. Endorses the South Australian government's position that the commonwealth, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia must continue to work together in a genuinely bipartisan way to implement the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full.

This is very crucial to South Australia, as has been pointed out by many people here today. We need to bring together all those jurisdictions to make sure that we work with the commonwealth to get a collaborative approach, to share ideas and to get a solution that is truly bipartisan and put to one side the petty party politics that we have been hearing about in the media and from those on the other side.

We need a solution for the River Murray. It is in our DNA to protect the River Murray here in South Australia, being a downstream state, as you have heard from many of my colleagues prior to my contribution today. We must put our differences aside and we must put the environment and the people of South Australia first. This is what the people of South Australia elected us to do after 16 years of being consistently let down, day after day. We are not interested in playing games. We want to deliver strong action for the Murray-Darling Basin, for the Murray-Darling river, and for the South Australian people, so they can continue to treasure and make use of this wonderful resource.

The Marshall government will continue to work to put South Australia first, to put our world class environment first, to put the South Australian people first and to put our regions first. Whilst those opposite may not agree, as the Minister for Primary Industries says, regions matter. This is one of the most important ways the Marshall government is committed to supporting our regions. When the Labor government were in power, they never cared about the regions. South Australian people and the many wonderful, genuine people who live and work in our regions were left to suffer for too long under the former government. The Marshall government is committed to supporting and growing our regions.

We have not been in government for a year, and I am proud to say that I have been fortunate to travel to almost every corner of the state and chat and listen to local residents to hear what issues are affecting them. I have been to Port Lincoln and towns on Lower Eyre Peninsula, including Cummins, Arno Bay and Tumby Bay, with the local member for Flinders. It was great to listen to what the people in this community had to say. I have visited Yorke Peninsula with the local member for Narungga, and again, he is in touch with the people in his community. It was a pleasure to join him and talk with and listen to the people of his local community. In both these places, I had the opportunity to sit down with farmers and listen firsthand to their concerns, something those opposite never did.

I have been to Mount Gambier and the Limestone Coast several times and, importantly, I have been to the Riverland, the heartland of the member for Chaffey, the champion of the regions and the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. I have been to the heart of the Murray-Darling in South Australia. I have been to Loxton and Renmark and met with the people there who volunteer their time and efforts to their local sporting clubs and to their local emergency services charities, like the CFS and the SES. These wonderful volunteers are the heart and soul of our Riverland community.

I was also in Waikerie about a month ago with the member for Chaffey, where I met with farmers, fruit growers and CFS volunteers. While speaking with them on a range of issues, their reliance on the river and the ebbs and flows of the mighty Murray were obvious. With the member for Finniss, I have also made my way to where the Murray finally meets the sea. I have been to Victor Harbor to meet the volunteers of the Victor Harbor-Goolwa Sea Rescue Squadron and to Goolwa to meet the volunteers of the CFS brigade there.

Again, it is hard to have a chat with anyone out there without coming back to the state of the river and what plans are in place for its health. I am not speaking for their conversation skills, as I am sure anyone would agree that, when you catch up with people in the regions, they love to tell a yarn. They love to chew your ear and they love to have their say about what is important to them in their community. I know from these firsthand conversations that the river is very important to these people, their community and every aspect of their life.

The river is the lifeblood of these people. It is how they make their money; it is how they put dinner on the table for themselves and their families. Through exports, both domestic and international, it is how other people put dinner on the table for their families. The export of resources grown on the River Murray plays a major part in South Australia's economy. The River Murray in South Australia plays a massive part in contributing to our state's tourist economy. Taking a houseboat or camping along the river, going waterskiing and having a barbecue or a bonfire on the riverside is an iconic Australian holiday, and we need to make sure that this pastime is a possibility for Australian families for generations to come.

Over the past few days, through the media and from those opposite, we have heard what I said at the start we do not need to do with this discussion about the River Murray: we do not need people playing petty politics. It has come to light that, in 16 years in government, those opposite were there at the table when the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was put together. We worked with them in a bipartisan manner to make sure that we could get the best outcomes for South Australia.

We have seen, and the minister has become aware of this in his time as minister of this portfolio, that the numbers are quite confronting and quite daunting. The minister has become aware that in their time—the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was put in place as a 12-year plan, and we are just over halfway through—the amount of water that they have had come down that river is one gigalitre, and that was actually sourced from within South Australia. So we are over halfway and those on the other side of the house delivered one gigalitre. That is the number that they are working on. The minister on this side of the house is focused on getting the 450 gigalitres.

In some quarters, he has been chastised by those opposite for wanting to get a better return for the River Murray. It makes me scratch my head, and it makes it hard for me to fathom how those on the other side can do the maths and think that their one gigalitre is a better return for South Australia than the 450 gigalitres that the minister is talking about.

I know that they will point to the royal commission report. It was some 746 pages long, with 44 recommendations and 111 key findings, but they will point to a couple of paragraphs in there. That is what they will point to, yet they do not point to the cold, hard facts that I have just stated: that in their time in government, working on this plan, all they managed to get the upstream states to do was nothing. One gigalitre came down the river on top of what normally flows, and that came from the South Australian jurisdictions.

The minister on this side has been working very hard to make sure we have a better return for South Australia. He watched very closely, and he saw the way the previous government operated. It had pushed away the upstream states from the table and from this negotiation. To his credit, he brought those states back, got them to the table and started working closely with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and the commonwealth to get us the outcomes we need to improve the River Murray for all South Australians.

The commission's personal criticism of the minister, while not criticising the ministers involved in the negotiations of the entire plan, is inconsistent and unfair. We have to remember that this plan was put together as a 12-year plan. It has been in place for more than half its life and the previous government failed to deliver. It really is a point that must be stressed and must not go unnoticed. The Premier made it very clear that there are significant questions as to whether the minister received procedural fairness and I support his claims that the minister has been very open, very public and very up-front about what he has done and how he has delivered this.

I will wrap up my remarks and say that on this side of the house we are very aware across the regions that a healthy River Murray is good for everyone. We know that the minister has worked tirelessly to make sure that he gets a better outcome for South Australia, better results for South Australia, more water flowing down the river so that we can have a productive, prosperous River Murray for all South Australians well into the future.


Authorised by Corey Wingard MP, Member for Gibson. Level 2, 1 Milham Street Oaklands Park SA 5046. ©Copyright / Legal / Login