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Turnbull's turn with water -

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(generated from captions) Jo Shoebridge explaining the intricacies of selling beef genetics to South America. Well, he's a former Rhodes Scholar, a journalist, lawyer, entrepreneur and outspoken republican. Now, Malcolm Turnbull has been hand-picked by the Prime Minister to oversee the Government's water policy as the new Parliamentary Secretary. He is taking on one of the most important portfolios for rural Australia. Malcolm Turnbull, welcome to Landline.

Thanks very much. Good to be with you, Sally. I read in your biography that you list yourself as a grazier with 20 years or so of experience. I guess farmers are wanting to know where you're coming from. What's your main priority for water when it comes to rural Australia? Well, the main priorities can be summed up in two words - security and sustainability. We need security of water.

Of course, that's all subject to the climate, to rainfall, but insofar as we can manage it, as from a political administrative point of view, users of water should have secure entitlements. Let's bring that down to the paddock. I know one particular example that there has been a lot of attention focused on is Cubby Station and you've been out to have a visit there. Sure. Do you think that the kind of expansion that Cubby Station is talking about may mean security for Cubby Station, but will that threaten sustainability for others who are further down? Well, I think more of the overland flows that Cubby Station or indeed any station intercepts, the less water will be available for those people downstream. Now, Cubby argues that the effect on downstream graziers and farmers is not as great as claimed, but they've got to be - that case has got to be made in a scientific way. I think one thing we can all agree on is that when the original allocations were made in that area by the Queensland Government, there was a failure on the part of the Queensland Government properly to take into account the environmental implications of those allocations and, in particular, a failure to take into account the implications for people living south of the border and NSW. Mr Turnbull, I want to talk to you about the water markets. I know that this is something you've got a particular interest in. At this early stage, what's your priority in terms of making the water markets more efficient? I think the most important objective for any market is that there is able to be free trade and in particular - and this is more of a southern Murray-Darling basin issue - free trade between the states, that's to say between water users on the NSW and Victorian side of the border and with South Australia,too. There has been some obstacles. There are remain obstacles to that level of trading.

We're wok working through them at the moment. Ultimately we have to - it's like any market - it takes two or, in this case, three to tango, and so that is a priority. Now, this is not some sort of free market issue of philosophy.

It enables water to be traded to the more efficient users. It's like any scarce resource - we all have an interest in it being used in the most efficient way possible, and water trading will enable that to happen. So what are the specific changes that you think need to happen to make that market work more effectively? My own feeling is that the important thing is for there to be more trading. Ultimately, once you get more trading, a more active market in water, the market will sort out a lot of these issues, and a lot of the rough edges, if you like, will be knocked off. So the important thing is efficiency and that can only benefit irrigators and the owners of water rights,

and I think we'll, of course, by moving to more efficient use of water, it will encourage irrigators to continue doing the great work they are doing already, which is using technology, science to better infrastructure, to use water more efficiently. What about the issue of infrastructure? How can rural Australia be more efficient in its water use when in some areas water is still being moved from one place to the other in open channels because of a lack of proper infrastructure? You get losses in any system, but very long distribution networks with open channels, with soil types that have a lot of seepage

lose an enormous amount of water. But there isn't just one silver bullet for conserving water. It's an ongoing task. I think rural Australia is embracing it with enthusiasm. Subsoil irrigation - we were talking about cotton a moment ago. That technique of, in effect,

running a dripper line beneath the soil can enable a cotton farmer to reduce his or her water usage by as much as 50%. Now,that's an enormous saving from an additional bit of infrastructure. Of course, there is more capital cost upfront, but over the life of the dripper line, or the tape, as it's called, there are a lot of savings. So there is a host of measures. There isn't a silver bullet, as I said,

but we have to look at all of these technologies and different approaches to infrastructure to ensure we have the most efficient use of this very scarce resource. Malcolm Turnbull, thank you very much more joining us on Landline. It's a great pleasure to be with you.