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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5263


Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for the Arts, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water and Population and Communities) (20:43): I will go through the different issues in turn. First of all, the member for Flinders, the shadow minister, asked some questions concerning the Aurora Australis. The Aurora Australis has been successfully supporting our Antarctic program for more than 23 years. The request for proposal process for a new icebreaker is part of our commitment. Obviously, we will get to the point where the Aurora Australis will eventually be retired from service. The request for proposal was released on AusTender. In line with our government procurement guidelines, it was open to any interested party. The Australian industry has every opportunity to be involved in the process.

The request for proposal is non-binding, but it will inform the next stage of the government's consideration of a new ship. Now that that proposal is closed, consideration is being given to industry's proposals, and the government will consider next steps following advice from an expert evaluation panel. We are not going to compromise our commercial contract negotiations by announcing exactly how much money we are willing to spend during those negotiations, which I think goes partly to the forward estimates question that was asked by the member for Flinders. I would not want to be in a situation where we have effectively flagged what our going rate is in the middle of a tender process which is as significant as the acquisition of this particular vessel.

Some work has had to be done to make sure that the icebreaker is able to be in good order while we go through this process. That work is being carried out, and I have received no advice that gives me any doubt as to the seaworthiness or the capacity of the vessel to properly perform its functions in the wake of that additional work being done. You do not need to know how long the vessel is; I can skip all of that.

The current contract with P&O Maritime Services can be extended through to the end of the 2016-17 summer operating season. Around this time would appear to be appropriate for introducing a new ship, but this will depend on decisions that are yet to be made. A $7.9 million life extension and refurbishment program, announced in the 2013-14 Commonwealth budget, will be undertaken between now and 2015 to ensure that the Aurora Australis continues to meet all of Australia's requirements for an icebreaker. If I can—

Mr Hunt interjecting

Mr BURKE: I beg your pardon?

Mr Hunt: Flights.

Mr BURKE: Can I come back to the issue of flights later in the discussion. I will get some further information on flights, and I will have a note to be able to give you some more detail on that.

On the issues of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which have been asked about, I thank the member for those. He had a passionate interest long before he entered the federal parliament that he then continued to pursue in his time as a federal member in making sure that there is a sustainable future for the Murray-Darling Basin and, in particular, a sustainable future for the South Australian end of the Murray-Darling Basin.

I am asked to provide an update on implementation. The final form of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which I am pleased to say received the bipartisan support of the House, is one where we went down what is organisationally a more difficult path. Administratively, it is much simpler if you simply go down a water-purchasing path. Deciding to go down an infrastructure path means that there is a lot more work in program design and making sure that we still deliver and go through the due diligence to ensure that we deliver the actual environmental outcomes and that we do not end up with a situation where infrastructure works are carried out in the name of environmental outcomes and the money goes through but the environmental outcome is not itself delivered. That means that my department has been involved in extensive due diligence conversations and work for a number of projects from the different states. Those projects, I should stress, need to come together, and the states have the perfect incentive to make sure—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order! The minister's time has expired, but the minister may wish to seek the call again. Minister.