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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Page: 4457


Senator WORTLEY (4:55 PM) —I welcome the opportunity to debate this matter of public importance today—that is, the state of the Murray-Darling Basin and, in particular, the challenges facing the Lower Lakes communities. The submission of options for the Lower Lakes provided to the Senate yesterday—


Senator Bernardi —What are they?


Senator WORTLEY —It is all right, Senator Bernadi. You are a climate change sceptic. We have that on record, and I will get to that in due course. The submission outlines a serious situation in the Lower Lakes and it outlines the short-term options for managing the situation. The annual Australian climate statement showed that 2007 was the sixth hottest year on record. It also showed that the Murray-Darling Basin remained dry. It came as no surprise.


Senator Bernardi —What’s that got to do with the communities of the Lower Lakes?


Senator WORTLEY —Yes, Senator Bernadi, I am happy to talk about that. While we are on the subject of the relationship between the Murray and climate change, let us look at a statement made by Senator Bernadi 12 months ago. He said:

I have come to believe we’re seeing a distortion of a whole area of science that is being manipulated—

manipulated—

to present a certain point of view to the global public, that is that the actions of man are the cause of climate change.

Before the submission was released, the opposition were demanding to see it. But now they are nowhere to be seen. Take a look around the chamber. They have gone to ground. We have had from those sitting opposite so many different positions. What their position is depends on which state they live in. When you are downstream in South Australia, you express outrage at the state of the Lower Lakes and you call for emergency action. We know that. When they are upstream in Victoria, they tell their constituents that the lakes cannot be saved and should not be saved and that the government should stop purchasing water entitlements. We know there are no easy options. We know that there are hard choices that have to be made.


Senator Bernardi —Are you standing up for South Australia?


Senator WORTLEY —What this document shows is that we have significantly less water in the southern basin than we need. If it does not rain, something will have to give. In the short term, the needs of people reliant on the Murray for critical drinking water must come first. This includes the one million residents of Adelaide. Yes, Senator Bernadi, I am a South Australian senator. We must be absolutely clear about the Lower Lakes. We need to do everything we can. That is why the government is proceeding with the course of action endorsed in this submission—that is, to continue the pumping arrangements we have in place. The Rudd government has committed $200 million to the South Australian government to address the problems facing the Lower Lakes and the Coorong —$200 million to the South Australian government, $10 million of which will be available immediately to accelerate projects for the Lower Lakes and the Coorong. That is why the government has committed $120 million for piping works to connect to a higher point on the Murray towns, communities and irrigators currently relying on the Lower Lakes.

We also want to avoid the situation that is occurring in the Lower Lakes spreading to other parts of the basin and ensure that all Australians have the water they need. So what are we doing about it? The Rudd government has a $12.9 billion long-term plan—Water for the Future—which is about preparing Australia for a future with less rainfall as a result of climate change.

We are sitting here today and we are debating this issue that is affecting the Murray-Darling Basin and the Lower Lakes with those on the other side, who have been climate change sceptics for nearly 12 years. What did they do? What did you contribute, Senator Bernardi, from your side? Absolutely nothing. That is one of the reasons we are in our current situation. You know that. You can sit there and you can say what you like, but you know that, and those opposite who were in government for 12 years— (Time expired)