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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3757

Murray-Darling Basin


Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister advise the House on the progress of consultation on the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan? Have there been any limits on the consultation process so far?


Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:16): I want to thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question. He has shown a long-term interest, as have the many South Australian members on this side of the House, in wanting to see a good outcome in a national approach to the Murray-Darling Basin.

One hundred and twenty-two days ago, the consultation on the draft plan began. There are only 26 days left in that consultation process. There have been meetings held, which a number of members from each side of this House have attended. Some members from my own side have made submissions. I know the member for Kingston has made a submission, calling for a tougher plan and wanting a better outcome for South Australia. I know some members opposite have stood up and asked for the numbers to go down in respect of their communities.

The difference between the submissions from each side of the House during this consultation process is that on this side of the House, when we are participating in that process, we participate with the certainty of knowing we will be on the side of backing the reform when it lands. We know that we will be on the side of having a national approach to the Murray-Darling Basin, whereas the most notable submission from those opposite was the one made by the Leader of the Opposition at the Griffith meeting, when he said that he would only support a 'good plan' without defining what a good plan would or would not involve.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Wakefield will remove himself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Wakefield then left the chamber.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. How could this be relevant to the question the minister was asked, to verbal the Leader of the Opposition, when the opposition is also in favour of a national plan for the Murray-Darling Basin?

The SPEAKER: If the Manager of Opposition Business takes a similar point of order, he will be ejected under the provisions of standing order 94(a). The minister was asked whether there were any limits on progress and he was answering the question.

Mr BURKE: There is a clear game that is going on during the consultation process with the Leader of the Opposition not defining what a good plan is or what a good plan would be. With 26 days to go, he is running down the clock without saying what he would and what he would not support. If your support is conditional—

Mrs Griggs interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Solomon will remove herself under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Solomon then left the chamber.

Mr BURKE: then you have got to let on to the public what those conditions are. Instead, what happens is they just run down the clock so that when the basin authority comes back with a final plan those opposite can say, 'Oh, that's not what we meant by a good plan,' and then, reluctantly, the Leader of the Opposition will be compelled to vote no. Who would have thought? Who would have thought that you would have a design of a line which is—every step of the way there—to not let on what sort of plan you would vote for, and, in the whole consultation period, to run down the clock for the final 26 days and not make clear what the conditions would be for coalition support?

Make no mistake: there are people on this side of the House who are arguing strongly for changes to the plan. But there is no-one on this side of the House, during the consultation period, who is saying, 'Let's spike the reform.' There is no-one on this side of the House who is saying that we should abandon the hope of having a national plan. Yet every word that has come from the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition has been designed to get to the day the authority comes back and then say, 'Oh, I never thought I had to support something like that—I will just vote no.'








Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (14:21): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. The minister talked about consulting a lot of communities around developing a basin-wide plan. Can the minister tell us about the importance of this for my home town of Adelaide?

An opposition member: It's not even in the basin!


Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:21): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for the supplementary question. Can I make clear: Adelaide is the one part of the entire Murray-Darling Basin where their catchment is the Murray-Darling Basin—more than half of their drinking water comes from the Murray-Darling Basin. There is an understandable level of commitment from those South Australian members, and in particular those from Adelaide, in wanting to see national reform. There is also a degree of peril. During the meeting organised by the Adelaide Advertiser today, they saw that the one person who did not join the Leader of the Opposition during his speech was the shadow minister for water. He was there but would not be in the camera frame when those words were being said. The puppeteer of water policy on that side of the House, and he would have described today—

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will withdraw that reflection.

Mr BURKE: I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: Does the member for Sturt have a point of order?

Mr Pyne: I ask how it can be relevant for the minister to falsely claim that Senator Joyce was not there this morning when he simply was there this morning. It is a completely false claim.

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sturt will remove himself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, with respect, I ask you to reconsider that. The minister was making a false statement. He said that Senator Joyce was not there. All the member for Sturt was trying to do was correct a false statement, which is surely of assistance to the House.

The SPEAKER: I pointed out previously to the member for Sturt that if he took another point of order that was an abuse of standing orders he would be ejected. He did so. There are other forms in the House if someone wants to correct a record. The honourable member has been here long enough to know that.

Mr Abbott: I apologise for further detaining you on this matter. I certainly did not hear your warning to the member for Sturt. It is more than possible in the hubbub that the member for Sturt did not hear your warning and under the circumstances if you extended a certain amount of leniency you would be reflecting well on the conduct of the chamber.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the Opposition.

The member for Sturt then left the chamber.

Mr BURKE: I think the concerns of the member for Hindmarsh on behalf of the people of Adelaide were best reflected by an interjection that occurred during that exchange. The member for Riverina interjected, 'The environment will fix itself; it always has.'

The SPEAKER: The minister will be directly relevant to the supplementary question.

Mr BURKE: The reason this plan needs to be in place, the reason the member for Hindmarsh is concerned, and the reason that this consultation process must lead to national powers over the Murray-Darling Basin is that you cannot just leave the environment to fix itself. It needs a national plan. (Time expired)