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Thursday, 30 November 2006
Page: 127

Mr JENKINS (10:47 AM) —Despite the ranting of the member for Paterson, my heart and my head are very much with the hundreds of thousands of workers at the National Day of Action supporting their workers’ rights despite the legislation that has been put in by the Howard government in recent times. But I want to talk about the water crisis that we have around Australia. I want to do so because of two recent visits I have made to local schools. The first was on Monday for the launch of a tank-to-toilet project at Mill Park Secondary College, where, for the cost of $65,000—a $50,000 community water grant plus a $15,000 effort by the school community—they have put in water-harvesting tanks and are using them on demand in their toilets.

The second visit was to the Thomastown Primary School. This visit resulted because I received a letter from one of the students in class 3/4, Phillip Papagiannopolous. I want to quote from his letter:

I am a nine-year-old boy from Thomastown. We are learning about water at school and as you know we are running out of water. This is because of climate change and we are not using water wisely. I thought all the kids in Australia should plant trees because the trees help the water cycle.

The other day I wrote a letter to Mr Howard to ask him to help and make a better future. Can you please make sure that this letter goes to Mr Howard? I left the envelope open so you can read it too.

I will be seeking leave to table this letter from Phillip. I would prefer that it be inserted in Hansard so that Hansard would become a more readable document, because Phillip obviously went to some trouble with this colourful letter about his idea for water. I think he is trying to capture the hearts and minds of children throughout Australia by involving them in a tree-planting exercise to help combat the great water crisis that we confront.

Let us put this into context. If we look at a recent media release from Yarra Valley Water on 2 November, it indicates that Melbourne’s water storages have dropped to 43.9 per cent. This can become a debate where we take partisan positions, but that is not going to help us to reach solutions. This is something that the states and territories will have to work through with the Commonwealth government at COAG. It is not something that is going to be easily fixed by new technologies; it will take a cultural change. Everything that can be done must be done to make sure that through the next few generations we have a sustainable source of water.

This is of importance to us not only for our social and community life but also for our economic life, particularly in the agricultural sector. To produce one kilogram of oven-dry wheat grain takes 715 to 750 litres of water; for one kilogram of beef, it takes 50,000 to 100,000 litres of water. I do not quote these figures in any way to shift blame to the agricultural sector but to indicate the importance of water. We are going through one of the driest periods on record. That only serves to highlight the need for us—as individuals and as family units at our residences—to rethink the way we use water. There is so much potential for improvement through the use of water harvesting and the recycling and use of grey water. I congratulate class 3/4 and their teachers, Ms Lauder and Mrs Micallef, at Thomastown Primary School. These students are going to be the future decision makers who will have to rectify the mistakes my generation has made. I hope that we are able to give them the greatest encouragement.

In conclusion, I call upon the Presiding Officers in their stewardship of this place, Parliament House, to look at ways we can be exemplars of what can be achieved. There is no harvesting of water or recycling of water, and 65 per cent of the use of water in Parliament House is for the gardens and the lawns. We really have to look at the components and our use. We have to look at the ways that we can use the water that is available wisely and minimise the total use of water out of the catchment of the ACT by creating sources of water on site. If we cannot do that here in Parliament House, I doubt whether we will be taken seriously as national leaders when asking others to do that. I hope that through the Presiding Officers, in consultation with the government, we can at least come up with some projects around this place which show the leadership that is required to make sure that this problem—this crisis—is tackled properly.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Does the honourable member seek leave to table the letter?

Mr JENKINS —I do seek leave.

Leave granted.