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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 629

Mr BRIGGS (10:42 AM) —I, too, rise to speak on the issue of water, following on from the member for Deakin. However, I speak of the greatest environmental disaster our country faces, which is in my electorate, the Lower Lakes, at the end of Murray-Darling Basin system. This week we acknowledge the contribution of Peter Howson, who was the first environment minister from this side of politics back in 1971. The Leader of the Opposition and the member for Higgins spoke eloquently in the House of Representatives about his contribution. It reminds us of the importance of that portfolio. I think we on this side of parliament have a proud record in that regard. The original focus on the environment was by Theodore Roosevelt, a former United States President, who came from our side of politics as well.

Two years ago, the Leader of the Opposition and the then Prime Minister announced a groundbreaking plan for the Murray-Darling Basin system. Unfortunately, since that time nothing really genuine has happened. Now the Lower Lakes in my electorate is an absolute disaster. Yesterday, there was a report released which stated that by April just near Clayton on the Lower Lakes in my electorate you will be able to walk across the Goolwa Channel. That is quite an extraordinary thing. I urge all members to have a look at this report. If they do, they will see how large a mass of land that actually is and how little water there is in that system.

The state government tells us that as the water recedes acid sulphate soil is developing. I have no reason to question their science. Their scientists seem quite convinced by this. When we have windy, hot days we get dust storms in Goolwa, Clayton and other places. These dust storms are whipping up this acid sulphate soil, which is having significant health effects on my constituents in that area. I am very concerned about this issue. I have written to the state health minister. I am hoping he will hold a full inquiry into this. Quite a lot of my constituents are contacting my office with concerns about their health and wellbeing. There is some evidence that this is having an effect.

This highlights the urgent need for some action and some genuine leadership on this issue. We are far beyond the point of talking. We need some action on this issue. We need some water in the system. We need the lakes to be fixed. Rather than talk about it, I urge the government to start to take some action. The dust storms are another side effect of a bigger problem. We have to do something in the short term. We are far beyond talking about this anymore.