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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
10/09/2008
Management of the Murray-Darling Basin system

CHAIR —Welcome to Professor Rob Fitzpatrick and Dr Paul Shand from the CSIRO and Mr Paul Davis, Coorong, Lakes and Murray Waterkeeper. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —I am the group leader of the soil biogeochemistry group and also a member of the National Committee for Acid Sulfate Soils and am responsible for producing the atlas map of Australia for acid sulfate soil.

Dr Shand —I come here in my capacity as having expertise in acid sulfate soils and in water chemistry.

CHAIR —Thank you, gentlemen. Before I invite you to make a brief opening statement, I will check whether you are comfortable with your photo being taken.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —No problem.

CHAIR —Would you like to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —I would like to first of all clarify a misunderstanding that may have arisen from the evidence given by CSIRO at yesterday’s hearing. Our CSIRO group has undertaken several major studies on acid sulfate soils for state and federal governments here in South Australia. That constitutes studies below lock 1, below Blanchetown, at Lower Lakes and the Coorong.

I thought it would be good to clarify what an acid sulfate soil is. Acid sulfate soils are those soils which contain materials that are affected by iron sulfide minerals. These iron sulfide minerals can oxidise and actually have soils that contain sulfuric acid—in other words, very low pHs, like pH 1.52. They can also have the potential to actually form sulfuric acid. They have not formed it yet, but they have the potential. They can also deoxygenate water. So they contain these iron sulfide compounds that are going to deoxygenate water.

What we have done as a CSIRO group is undertaken something like one published report. That is in the public domain. We have five reports that have been commissioned by state or federal governments that have been submitted and completed and are being reviewed right now. As I understand it, they should be out within weeks.

Senator HUTCHINS —So press reports that the CSIRO has not done anything are inaccurate, are they?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Correct. Yes. The number of sites that we have actually looked at is well in excess of 100—113 sites. We have also analysed 500 soil layers of samples from this area. So we have a lot of good information. The sort of work that we have done is to actually sample and analyse soils that are under water, so what we called submerged or subaqueous soils.

We have looked at the soils that are waterlogged and the soils that have obviously drained as a consequence of this severe drought we have had. That would include Lake Albert, Lake Alexandrina, the Coorong and the channel. What we have done is understand their properties, their distribution, how they have actually derived their risks and also aspects of management of these soils.

I have handed out a page which summarises the information we have produced in terms of maps. I can talk about that now. The reports that we have produced that are with the state governments at the moment concern these maps: prediction of what happened before the drought, what it looks like now and what might happen when the level could reach, let’s say, minus 1.5. We have looked at the acidity, metal release, and nutrient mobilisation as a consequence of wetting, but that has been a laboratory study. We have also looked at the water quality screening risk assessment and the impacts of acid sulfate soils in this region.

Dr Bill Young was at yesterday’s hearing. I need to explain that information from the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields Project was provided to the Australian government in regard to the audits base with regard to transmission losses, based on the scenario modelling we had already undertaken, which is referred to in the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts written submission. That is a brief statement to get things going.

CHAIR —Thank you very much, Professor Fitzpatrick. Mr Davis or Dr Shand, do you wish to add anything?

Mr Davis —Yes, I would like to. Thank you. My perspective is very much from the perspective of people around the communities of the lake with an interest in the sustainability of the environment, the ecology down there. We would like to make a few statements about that environment and also the fact that there have been quite a few mistaken beliefs about the area.

Primarily it was an area of freshwater history going back to its inception, going back, scientists are saying, 7½ thousand years ago. Since it was first formed it has always been predominantly fresh water. In fact, 95 per cent to 99 per cent of the time it was fresh water in the lakes, with occasional incursions with low flows through climatic conditions, and more recently in terms of extractions from the river which cause a depletion of flow. But for the majority of the time it was fresh water in those lakes. So we are talking about a freshwater ecology.

When we come to talk about solutions for the Coorong and the lakes, we need to keep in mind that the Coorong historically was an estuary and the lakes were essentially fresh water and there were occasional incursions of salt water into those freshwater lakes—very occasional. In fact, the estuarine nature of the system really ended at a place called Point Sturt where the channel forms again from the River Murray around the towns of Clayton, towards Goolwa and into the Murray mouth.

We would like to emphasise the fact that when we do talk about solutions we need to keep in mind that Australia has signed various agreements in relation to that wetland. It is a wetland which incorporates the Coorong and the Lake Alexandrina-Lake Albert wetland. There are some people who prefer to describe the wetland that is under the Ramsar convention as the Coorong alone. It is not. They are an integrated unit. They are very important to the existence of each other and the organisms which exist in those two sections of the system.

The Ramsar convention has identified this area as an area of international significance, an area that should be conserved and protected. Australia, who nominated it back in 1985, has in fact confirmed that within its own Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

There are also international treaties—bird treaties in particular—with China, Japan and Korea, and Australia has obligated itself to fulfil its conservation role in regard to those migratory birds that inhabit the area.

This is a key area for many species, and some of these species range from 21 to 30-odd per cent of the world’s population of bird species. So it is an important area that we need to conserve.

When people talk about the Coorong Ramsar site, we need to refer in fact to the Coorong, Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert wetland. We believe that the area can be saved, even though we are facing a dire future, according to forecasts of climate change. I believe that we have the opportunity now, rather than abandon these lakes to various engineering solutions which will seriously diminish the ecological values of the area and negate Australia’s commitments to international agreements. I believe we have time now to secure some water. I believe there is water around and look forward very much to the audit confirming the fact that water is there. Some of that water may be in very small quantities in different places, but it is worth pursuing in small quantities to gather the quantity necessary to bring down water. Scientists tell us that we probably need between 250 and 350 gigalitres of water, depending on the conditions at the start of summer, to keep the system alive. What we want is the level of water to remain such that the lake levels do not diminish any lower and expose the sulfidic soils and the potential of acid formation in those soils.

We have some very good news—anecdotal evidence—that recent rains have provided some benefit in an area to which I accompanied Professor Rob Fitzpatrick while he was confirming the existence of acid sulfate soils in Point Sturt, in that vicinity. Following good rains in April of this year, pH levels dropped rather dramatically. Professor Rob Fitzpatrick obviously is more of an expert than I am, but I am personally encouraged by those results. So we are not at the stage yet where we need to write these off; we only need a small amount of water, and there are various sources of it.

Senator HEFFERNAN —If the science prediction is right on climate change and the run-off at the present time is around 23,000 to 24,300 gigs per annum and we lose, at the top of the prediction, between 3,500 and 11,000 gigs—and obviously that is going to completely reconfigure the Murray-Darling—are you saying that the top priority would be the lakes as opposed to scrubbing some of the other Ramsar sites up the system?

Mr Davis —I think that all the Ramsar sites are very important to maintain. Wetlands have a very significant role in providing filtration systems for the river.

Senator HEFFERNAN —All of those. Are you saying that if we do that, and given the disproportionate return of water with the reduced run-off for the freight in the river, that we should absolutely protect; do away with the work and put it all into—

Mr Davis —I believe we should protect the wetland down here.

Senator HEFFERNAN —And the other wetlands?

Mr Davis —And the other wetlands.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Even if it means no work?

Mr Davis —No, I am not suggesting that at all.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You are the keeper of the water. What happens if we lose 11,000 gigs out of the system, which is the doomsday scenario in the science? What would happen?

Mr Davis —We are looking at a very serious situation. The only other possibility of course is to rethink the way that we locate our agricultural activities because—

Senator HEFFERNAN —I am sure of that.

Mr Davis —Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Develop the north. We have got people now saying that we should lock up the northern part of Australia because it is pristine. You are saying that we should lock up the south.

CHAIR —Maybe you could just concentrate on the Murray-Darling Basin, Senator Heffernan.

Senator HEFFERNAN —My final question is: how much lime per hectare would it take to have a physical rather than a natural solution to the acidic problem?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Thousands of tonnes of lime would be required to—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Per hectare.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —It varies, depending on the amount of—

Senator HEFFERNAN —We put a tonne on every year per acre. We put on two and a half tonnes. Our pH is four and a half—

Prof. Fitzpatrick —It would be 10 times that amount for acid sulfate soil.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So you could do it.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —You could lime these areas, but they are very difficult to lime because they are wetland areas and we need to be very clear that when we lime a wetland area, which is a Ramsar area, as opposed to let’s say agricultural land, it is very different.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I understand that. But we may be faced with a very difficult situation. If it does not rain this spring and the snow evaporates, we have a doomsday scenario at the bottom end of the river. We also have a doomsday scenario all the way up the system, and lime is a solution, you will give me that.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —It is an option, and it is an option that could be used, and we do have the calculations available to determine exactly how much lime should be added per hectare for the different regions. As you can see from the maps, they do vary slightly in terms of their concentration.

[2.00 pm]

CHAIR —You may want to provide the committee with that information, Professor Fitzpatrick.

Senator HURLEY —These maps that have the current level of minus 0.5 metres AHD—when you say ‘current’ is that back in February-March?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes, that was in February. In fact, if you look at the map for Lake Albert, it is interesting. If you look at the scenarios that I have given you, you will see that pre drought that whole area was filled with water, which meant that the whole lake was in fact submerged, and the sulfidic material—or acid sulfate soil with sulfidic material—was sitting there quite happily and it could sit there for another million years and it would not be a problem. As soon as you get evaporation, those sulfidic materials that contain pyrite oxidise—and when it was minus 0.5 AHD at Lake Albert, you can see that was what we found when we actually looked at that area. You can see that we have given a further prediction: if it dropped 1.5 AHD, more than half the area would become sulfuric acid.

Senator HURLEY —Do you know what level it is this week?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —This week it is about 0.3. The pumping has actually pushed it slightly above that value of 0.5. So pumping water from Lake Alexandrina into Lake Albert has done the trick in terms of preventing more acid sulfate soils forming, and we have verified that. So we know that we can actually fix it by putting water in.

Senator HEFFERNAN —If there is not the water, just give me a rough shot at how much lime per acre or hectare.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —We have not done the exact calculations yet, but it would be thousands of tonnes of lime that would be required.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No, per hectare. We use thousands of tonnes of lime on my farm, that is no big deal.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Let me explain.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Per hectare.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —There are different concentrations that occur in a particular area.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, well, just for me in a crop area. Is it 10 tonnes a hectare mean?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —One hundred tonnes a hectare, plus. It is huge.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So that is 5,000 tonnes, $5,000 a hectare, as a physical solution.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —That is right. And you have got to mix it in.

Senator HEFFERNAN —All of that.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —All of that. One of the scenarios would be to fly it in. You can actually fly the lime in. We are looking at all those options at the moment.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We are talking about doomsday stuff here.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes. But there are other options as well, like bioremediation.

CHAIR —With the limited time that we have, thank you, Professor Fitzpatrick. There are a number of senators who do wish to ask questions, but very briefly I just want to come back to acidification of the lakes.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes.

CHAIR —Can you provide the committee with any information about the situation north of the lakes in the southern basin.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Very good question. The information that we have supplied you with here, I have to clarify, is only to do with acidification of the soils. If water came back into an area that had evaporated and formed an acid sulfate soil, the water that would come back in there would be acidified. To answer your question about how this impacts on the lake, we do not know. That information is still up for more research, and work to be done, to understand how the acidification from the soils actually leaches through and into the lake. We have information about the lake water, about the alkalinity of the lake—Paul has done a lot of work on that. We have information about the soils. We know something about the transmissivity between the two, but not exactly. We do not have the information, at this point in time, on the calculations and the modelling to do with that scenario.

CHAIR —So we would not have the potential impact on drinking water either, would we?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —No.

Senator SIEWERT —Sorry, Chair. Could you repeat the question that you asked about drinking water.

CHAIR —Yes.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Sorry. Can I just clarify that. If I understand it correctly, the question you asked was have we done work further north?

CHAIR —Yes, in the southern basin.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —Sorry, it was the drinking question. You asked did it have an impact on drinking water.

CHAIR —Yes, ‘Do you have the science of the impact on drinking water,’ to which the professor said no.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —We have information but we have not stretched the decision that the acidification of the wetlands up the river—in other words, between Wellington and lock 1—have any impact on Adelaide’s drinking water supply.

That information we do not have. We have information on the metals and the acid sulfate soils of all the wetlands. There are several hundreds of them. We are at the moment analysing 30 of these wetlands between Wellington and lock 1. We will have that information within the next two to three months. We cannot make an extrapolation between the metals and the acidity in those wetlands and the offtake pipes that go to Adelaide’s drinking water supply. We do not have that information.

CHAIR —Thank you, Professor.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What is the pH upstream?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —When you say upstream, are you meaning above Wellington?

Senator HEFFERNAN —I am trying to get my head around what you are trying to tell us.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —This is between Wellington and Blanchetown, where most of the—

Senator HEFFERNAN —The question that the chairman asked was, have you done work on whatever it was.

CHAIR —The southern basin.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What is a mean pH across the landscape?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Below pH 4. The pH of the wetlands—

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is manageable with lime.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —It ranges from 1.9 to 4.0.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, that is a problem.

Senator NASH —I do not think I have met a waterkeeper before. Can you tell me what a waterkeeper does.

Mr Davis —It is a very broad range of opportunities to represent the wetlands and the communities around them. One of the essential roles is being out there monitoring what is happening and being an observer. It is also representing the interests of the wetlands, so it is addressing the public, speaking to media, representing the wetlands and communities around them to various organisations that may be interested, including governments, and it is making representations to governments. It is conducting community education programs about the care of the waterways. It is quite a diverse range of opportunities.

Senator NASH —There are a whole lot of conflicting views about what should and should not be done and a conflicting amount of information around those options. If filling the lakes with salt water is discounted as an option and water coming from the north is deemed to either not be practicable or to have too great an effect on the rural communities north of this bottom end of the basin—you mentioned lime—what are the other options? If we ruled out those two major options, which really are the ones on the table at the moment, what are the other options? What else could be done?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Bioremediation would be an option. You could plant Phragmites and other crops in that vicinity. At the moment we are working with the state government to design such experiments at four sites that are extremely acid around the lake. What that would do is actually mulch the material, which has the capacity, first of all, to stop wind erosion, which is an issue down there, and also by mulching this material—which would grow because you have a lot of water down there—the fermenting of that material would generate some form of alkalinity, which could neutralise the acid sulfate soils that are formed.

Senator NASH —That sounds very sensible. Is that being seriously considered?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes. We have already had three meetings with our state government colleagues and have designed some of these experiments to go ahead. We have selected the areas and the farmers have been talked to about where we are going to conduct these experiments. Each of them is about a kilometre long, and we are already looking at the feasibility of undertaking these studies with the state government.

Senator NASH —This question is directed to all three of you. Out of the options that are available to do something about the lakes, do you have a preference? What are those four options?

Mr Davis —If water could be found, I think that is preferable, because we have an ecology we are trying to sustain, and I believe that there are options for obtaining water. Failing that, I have been impressed by the comments of some colleagues of Professor Fitzpatrick who came down to the lakes. I took them to a spot there just a few weeks ago where we could see a regrowth of vegetation in the lake bed, and that looked very encouraging to me. It was clearly a site where the pH readings were extremely low at the time for their first identification, and now we have this regrowth. I think that is a great option. To be able to plant out exposed areas of the lake I think is a very appealing option.

Senator NASH —You mentioned that you thought there were some options for water. Could you supply on notice some detail about where you think those options are. Do you think that the government—and I would ask this, whoever was in government—decision makers at the moment who are going to determine what steps we are going to take for the Lower Lakes and the Coorong are well enough informed to make the right decisions at this point?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —The information on acid sulfate soils at the moment is with state government authorities, so we would have five reports already with them to read and have calculations on various options—for example, how much lime would be applied for the various regions, the maps of the area, the depth of acid sulfate soil. We have also identified the lack of information, such as I explained earlier. We need to be able to understand the connection between the soils and the impact on the lake waters. There is also the idea of designing experiments for bioremediation, because a thing like Phragmites is very tolerant to pH conditions right down to pH 2—it can thrive in those sorts of situations—so use that as a means of fixing the problem.

We have also given information in the submission. For example, we know that sea water can neutralise acid sulfate soils. It is a common practice on the east coast, but that is in the situation where you can get sea water in and you can get the sea water out quickly. Here is a situation where we know, if we get sea water in, we can predict what may happen in terms of further formation of the sulfidic material, so you will be creating more acid sulfate soil conditions by putting sea water in, because it cannot get out again. If you can get it out, that is not a problem, but if you cannot get it out, you will create a hypersaline situation, with the formation of potential acid sulfate soil conditions that we call monosulfidic black ooze gels.

Senator SIEWERT —What I am trying to get my head around at the moment is what level of water is the minimum amount of water you could then combine with, say, bioremediation. If it is the worst-case scenario and we cannot get water down, or we can only get a little bit, how much would you say is the minimum amount that you could mix with a combination of bioremediation?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —With Lake Albert, for example, the discussion with the state government was that enough water has gone in to cover some of the really reactive sulfidic material, which means that they have reduced pumping. So it has actually worked. If they had not done that, that whole area would have been a national disaster. Around the lake the idea would be that you could plant up to the water edge, so the experiments are being designed to go right down to the water edge. Understand that it is also pretty dangerous. This stuff is pretty soft mud. You can just sink into it. Also, of course, it is acid, so you have to be pretty careful how you work with this material. All that sort of stuff would be taken into consideration, so you would just work with what you have.

In terms of the prediction, I think the maps I have given you would explain that, if you have no rain and you get down to 1.5, you have a pretty serious situation. On top of that, we are monitoring those areas as we speak.

Senator SIEWERT —What I think has been identified is that the lowest you could go is 0.8.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —If you pick the level with scientific information where you would keep the water level, you would need enough water to keep it at that level and then use bioremediation.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —That would be an option, and we could look at the scenarios in terms of acid sulfate soils, like we have done. Other aspects I cannot talk about in terms of water balance and so on, but certainly in terms of acid sulfate soil scenarios, that is an option.

Senator SIEWERT —In that instance, I was purely just asking about acid sulfate soils.

Dr Shand —It is not simply a case of looking at surface water levels, it is also looking at subsurface water levels, because obviously if you have plants, then these need to take their water from the groundwater system, and that is something that is very poorly understood.

Senator SIEWERT —So monitoring those groundwater levels is critical to that as well.

Dr Shand —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —What is the interaction between surface water and groundwater levels then?

Dr Shand —It is extremely variable. It depends very much on the soils—whether we have clays, for example, or sands—and there is very little information on that. Certainly from our experience it is extremely variable.

Senator SIEWERT —Across those Lower Lakes?

Dr Shand —Across the Lower Lakes.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes. In fact, the Lower Lakes have an extreme condition of soil variability. You have got peats, sands and clays that crack down to a metre, and the soil variability, although they are all acid, varies quite substantially, but we have actually quantified that to a degree in our maps and the information.

Senator SIEWERT —So you have an understanding of the soil types. But we do not yet have a proper understanding of the connectivity between groundwater and surface water?

Dr Shand —No.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Correct.

Senator SIEWERT —We do not then, therefore, understand how much water we need to keep groundwater at a level that is going to be important to sustain the lake as well. Is that the correct understanding?

Dr Shand —That is correct, yes.

Senator HUTCHINS —Thank you for clearing up that inaccuracy earlier, Professor Fitzpatrick. There are a lot of frightened people in these communities and I think it is incumbent on us all to make sure they are fed accurate information and, indeed, that the media check out statements before they publish them. My question to you is along those lines. What do you understand to be the difficulties in securing enough fresh water to guard against acidification risks in the Lower Lakes?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Could you just rephrase that question so that I can think about it? Are you asking me where we could get the fresh water from?

Senator HUTCHINS —I am asking you what you think the difficulty would be in obtaining that fresh water.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Immense. There is no question of that. As you heard from our colleagues earlier today, the fresh water that has come in just from the catchment surrounding is getting close to probably near 100 gigalitres, or certainly over 50, and that has been fabulous. So that is a good news story, and any amount of water that can get in to supplement these soils to be kept anaerobic, the better.

Mr Davis —There are other options as well. A recent report on the sustainable water options for Adelaide, for example, identifies some possible sources of water, and I think that would apply to a lot of the urban users in the system. This report, using demand management, is suggesting that 84 gigalitres could be obtained from just that source alone in respect to Adelaide and, of course, the target for litres per person a day use is very significant in that regard. The target in this particular report is identifying 140 litres per day, which was the quota which was applicable in Brisbane during their particular crisis up there, and I do think that urban users, although they have been very good in response to the drought conditions and the plight we face here, still have scope to be able to make considerable water savings, so, from that alone, we would have a substantial amount of water coming down the system.

There are also other, more controversial sources, of course, of water, and that requires the Commonwealth government to be involved in the purchasing of water. We know, for example, that there are 650 gigalitres across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia of carryover water. All of that, of course, would not want to be purchased by the Commonwealth because there are permanent plantings and people’s livelihoods at stake there, but there are willing sellers of water. We know, for example, that here in South Australia some of the irrigators are unable to access water from the lake and they have offered to sell that water to the South Australian government to ensure that that water stays here. That offer has so far been rejected.

We need to be able to think in terms of a wide range of sources and to be looking a little bit more innovatively than we have. And, of course, there are more, longer term solutions, like stormwater harvesting, where there are very significant returns here in this report in the instance of Adelaide—60 gigalitres. The existing catchments of Adelaide could be better utilised as well, returning 82 gigalitres. So when we begin to add up all these—

CHAIR —Mr Davis, you may want to table that, if that is a document that you can provide to the committee.

Mr Davis —Thank you.

CHAIR —And I am sorry to cut you off like that, but we are running out of time. Did you want to finish that?

Mr Davis —Yes. Just finishing off there, the sum total of those savings alone from four sources is 227 gigalitres, and that is approximating the lower end of the target to keep the lakes going through the summer.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Davis. There are two questions on notice. We are well over time, but Senator Xenophon and Senator Fisher have questions on notice that should take about 30 seconds.

Senator XENOPHON —On notice: Dr Phillips yesterday gave evidence that, if you put salt water into the lakes, it could impact on the groundwater of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Can you get back to us on that? Have the potential implications of the lakes being flooded with salt water been looked at in terms of the groundwater contamination?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —It is a big one. We will address that.

Senator FISHER —I think this is for Professor Fitzpatrick, but it is on notice unless the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, if you do not mind. You said earlier in your evidence that you do not have information about the acidic effects above lock 1 on Adelaide’s drinking water. Given the proposals being considered, we understand, by the state government, has the state government sought your views on that issue?

Prof. Fitzpatrick —Yes, they have.

Senator FISHER —Can you then, in that case, provide them to the committee, please.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —We will get permission from the state government to be able to release to this committee the reports that are already available and with our state government.

Senator FISHER —Thank you.

CHAIR —Unfortunately, we are out of time.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Can I just ask you—

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, I would urge you to be as quick as possible.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Given the science prediction for the next 50 years and the sea rise in that time, isn’t all this country we are talking about, including out the front here, going to be inundated by sea water?

CHAIR —You can take it on notice.

Prof. Fitzpatrick —We will take it on notice.

CHAIR —Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time.

[2.22 pm]