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ABC News Breakfast -

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(generated from captions) After years of controversy

about its enormous demand for about its enormous demand for

water, Queensland cotton plantation Cubbie Station is up

for sale by international

tender. Could this be the

government's biggest chance in

its water buyback scheme in to

answer that we're joined now by

the independent senator Nick

Xenophon in Canberra. Good morning. Good morning,

Joe. Now, should the Federal

Government buy Cubbie Station

lock, stock and barrel? Not

under current conditions. I

will explain why. will explain why. There is a real issue about the authorisations Cubbie was given

in the first place, amongst much controversy by the

Queensland Government in the

90s, Cubbie is a symbol of all

that is wrong with water policy

in this country. You can't

trust the States to manage

water. There needs to be a full

federal takeover. In relation

to Cubbie, the problem is and I

was on the phone to Professor

Mike Young, currently in

morning, and Europe, early hours of this

argument is a compelling one. morning, and his attitude and

He says that if the

Commonwealth buys water from Cubbie, what it will do is it

will increase the value of the

irrigation licences in the

darling 'cause it will mean

increased flows in the darling,

so ultimately, the Commonwealth

will have to buy the water twice. With little or no

benefit for the lower reaches

of the Murray. Why should the

Commonwealth be spending

taxpayers' money on water that

it can't

it can't control? So the

Federal Government should not

be interested in the sale of

Cubbie or its water allocations

at all? Not as water plan

currently is for the Darling.

If we had a new basin plan, if

that was fast tracked, if there

was a takeover, it would mean

that water could actually find

its way through the entire

system, rather than increasing

the value of water licences in the Darling so the Darling so the Commonwealth

would have to pay twice for the

same amount of water with

little or no discernible environmental benefit, then I'd be very wary about going down

that path. The problem is the

system is broken in the way

that various States control it,

the way that licences are

issued, and in terms of how water allocation is determined,

and Cubbie was flawed from the

start, in the way that its water authorisation was given.

I've gotta say, Bill Heffernan, I've gotta say, Bill Heffernan,

as controversial as he can be

sometimes, has been on the

money on this from Day 1. In

relation to what would happen

if this water if the government

bought it up and it was left to

flow through the system, would

it be taken up by other

irrigators and none would get

through to the south of South

Australia? Exactly. That's

what was put to me what was put to me by Professor

Mike Young this morning one of

the founders of the Wentworth

Group of concerned scientists.

The the way water licences are

structured now because there

are general licences in the

upper parts of the Darling,

once more water starts to flow

down from Cubbie, it basically

gives an entitlement to those

irrigators to use more water.

In terms of the flows, In terms of the flows, it's

gone from something like 28% to

3% since Cubbie has been in

play. The consequence is that

you will simply give greater

entitlements to irrigators in

the upper reaches of the kal

darling River system. It means

the value of those licences

would increase. For the

government to try to get water to pulse through the system

it'd have to purchase that

water again. While we have the current water plan in place, water again. While we have the

until we have a new basin plan,

there is a real question mark about the best use of

taxpayers' money. We need to be

focusinging on the lower

reaches of the Murray right now

where the situation is even more critical. Takeing into

account what you've said there,

wouldn't it still be best to

buy up Cubbie in the hope of

restructuring the system

urgently over the next few

years and then that water would eventually flow through the

eventually flow through the

system? And that sounds good but the problem is that unless

there is a new basin plan in

place, we'll end up buying

twice - we'll end up buying the

water twice and in a sense the Commonwealth won't have any

control over the water that it

purchases. That's why the last

best hope for the river system

is for there to be a full

federal takeover, for the Rudd

Government to have the same

sort of political will that the

Franklin River 25 years Hawke Government had over the

Franklin River 25 years ago.

That's the sort of approach we

need to fix up the river

because you can't trust State

Governments to manage the river

system. Just turning to another

issue now - we have the

renewable targets legislation

up in Parliament this week.

What are your amendments? A

couple of things. Firstly

there's a real concern that the

air pump water heaters that

don't use solar panels which

receive massive amounts of

particularly renewable energy credits,

particularly on a commercial

basis, ought to be shut down.

They used to be phased out as

quickly as possible because

many see that as a massive

loophole, a rort, that

shouldn't be allowed to occur

because it isn't actually

providing renewable energy or

getting energy from the sun. In

terms of germ terms of germ --

geotherm al power, if you want

to wean Australia off coal, the

best way to do it is with geothermal because it is a

baseload source of power and

wind energy just isn't that and

the geothermal people

understandably are saying wer

at a disadvantage compared to

wind power because it's just cheaper to

cheaper to go into geo