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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Page: 4454

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (4:45 PM) —The crisis that we see in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong is something that we need to be tackling immediately. The Greens have been campaigning on the plight of the Murray for years. We have been speaking to the local communities from Goolwa right up to Queensland. We have moved parliamentary motions of urgent action. We have put forward necessary amendments to the federal government’s water bill. But it is now crunch time. We need to find new sources of water as soon as possible for the Lower Lakes and the Coorong, and fresh water flows must be restored before summer if we are to have any chance of trying to rescue the dying Coorong and the Lower Lakes.

This is why the Greens moved the motion for the urgent Senate inquiry into what we need to do. We need to figure out how we can get water down there, not in 2019 or 2018 but now. The multiparty support for the inquiry into the water management of the Lower Lakes and the Coorong indicated the scope of this environmental crisis. It shows acceptance by all sides of politics that we need to act now. The Greens indeed welcome the support for a big inquiry from the coalition, although it is disappointing to hear the dirty smear campaign against the Greens that is being perpetrated in the Mayo electorate by the Liberals even today.

Isn’t it interesting that Senator Minchin expressed such concern about the impact of the Greens policy on the people of South Australia, particularly those in the electorate of Mayo, when the former Liberal member, who was there for 24 years, did little to address the crisis and little to address the continued mismanagement of the Murray and the devastating effects that was having on his constituents? While the Greens do not oppose government support for these communities in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong—in fact we welcome it—after 12 years of inaction by the previous government I am interested in the opposition’s timing on this, suddenly accepting that this is an emergency and needs an emergency assistance plan, given the significance of the Mayo by-election this coming Saturday.

It is that type of dirty politics and the smear campaign that is being run by the Liberals that is misleading, and insulting to, the people of Mayo. It leads me to think that perhaps it is the Liberal Party who are in panic in Mayo. Perhaps it is because the local communities are talking about what is going on in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong and they want to see action. They have not seen action for 12 years. We cannot wait another 12 years; we need action now.

Let’s get the support for the communities that we need and get the water down to the Lower Lakes and the Coorong, but let’s not make this about politics because we have a by-election happening in Mayo. The Greens have been consistently calling for action on the Murray. I urge the government to act on the findings of the Senate inquiry when it reports at the end of this month. We need to be looking after our communities in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong and we need to be ensuring that we save our Storm Boy country, but let’s get the dirty politics out of it.