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Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Page: 673


Ms LEY (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister outline how the promised 200 gigalitres of water savings from the re-engineering of Menindee Lakes will be delivered now that funding for this so-called priority work, promised in 2007 and still not started, has been cut from $400 million to $100 million?


Mr BURKE (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) —The question asked by the member for Farrer goes to the importance of works and measures—


Mr Abbott —Works and measures?


Mr BURKE —Works and measures, for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition, is when we refer to gaining efficiencies on how efficiently we manage our environmental assets. Too much focus, to some extent, has been exclusively on an argument that says you can only find efficiencies at the irrigation end. If you want to look on farm, you will find that has been the area where people have driven efficiencies the hardest already. Centralised irrigation structures are certainly a good way to go, and that refers to the issues that were raised earlier by the member for Murray in terms of what you are doing there to improve efficiencies. Works and measures says—and this is the reason for the question for Menindee Lakes—as well as how efficient we can be with irrigation, are there ways we can more efficiently manage our environmental assets? To every extent that you can do that you free up more water for productive uses while still delivering the environmental dividend. This government is determined to make sure that for each of these individual projects—


Mr Dutton —You should be in the New South Wales parliament talking this rubbish.


Mr BURKE —The member for Dickson describes these as rubbish.


Mr Dutton interjecting


The SPEAKER —The minister will ignore the member for Dickson. The member for Dickson will stop interjecting.


Mr BURKE —It is terribly sad if we do not look at every possible way of trying to drive efficient use of water so that we can provide security for the environmental assets while still providing the opportunity for food production and strong regional communities. There are discussions between the Commonwealth government and the New South Wales government specific to the Menindee Lakes program. The issue there is not in terms of the quantum of money spent but to make sure that the environmental outcome is delivered.