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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3457

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (20:25): There is a certain synergy which sees this motion, which covers sanitation and water quality, amongst other things, following the speech of my good friend the member for Leichhardt, the Chief Opposition Whip, in relation to tuberculosis and community health. Community health is based in much part upon having a sound and safe sanitation and water system. In this motion, I want to address four things briefly: firstly, Australian urban water supplies; secondly, Australian rural water supplies; thirdly, international safety and sanitation; and, fourthly, the protection and care of our marine environment and, in particular, marine animals such as turtles and dugongs, which we have seen featured just this evening on the 7.30 program in relation to their slaughter and poaching.

This motion reads:

That this House:

(1) recognises the:

(a) importance of World Plumbing Day on 11 March and its aim of highlighting the role that the plumbing industry plays in relation to health, through the provision of safe water and sanitation; and

(b) environmental role of the industry in water conservation and in energy efficiency and the increasing use of renewable sources of energy;

(2) notes that it is estimated that 3.1 million children die each year as a result of water related diseases; and

(3) congratulates the World Plumbing Council on its role in promoting the importance of the plumbing industry both in developed countries and in developing countries where good plumbing could save lives.

The subject of this motion combines the portfolio for which I have responsibility with the work of a former member for Hasluck, Stuart Henry, who is now a leader in the World Plumbing Council. The motion starts with the proposition that safe water and reasonable drinking supplies are fundamental to the safety of children and adults throughout the world.

We on the coalition side have a four-pillars plan at the urban level to ensure that safe water is in place. The first pillar is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of water through dams, and in particular through new dams. We are not afraid of supporting new dams. We have lived through a period where it was famously said by a previous Victorian premier that dams do not create water. Actually, they do store water. We have seen the extraordinary volumes which can be stored in the wet times, and they carry us through to the dry times. We have also seen the flood mitigation value of dams over recent times. So we do support new dams where they are environmentally appropriate and they will have a genuine benefit to the community.

The second pillar is to replace potable water where possible, to husband and secure our potable water resources through a greater use of stormwater for non-potable purposes—for watering our parks and gardens, for taking care of irrigation needs. Right around Australia, there is the potential for an extraordinary increase in stormwater capture and recycling through the underground aquifers.

That leads me to the third of the urban pillars, and that is recycling. Again, this is recycling for potable replacement rather than for use as potable water. There is an understandable community concern. We should be recycling water, as we can do in all of our cities. We have seen significant progress in some but a large failure in my home state of Victoria, in Melbourne, and in New South Wales, in Sydney. There should be much greater recycling, as opposed to desalination, which is an incredibly energy-intensive and extraordinarily expensive way to produce water.

The fourth pillar is water efficiency. There is an enormous amount to be done. We saw in my home state of Victoria the great strides forward in water efficiency that people made during the dry times. We should not lightly give away those forms of water efficiency. This brings me to the second of the great areas where this motion is concerned, and that is the adequate supply of rural water. I know that we have many people here from different parts. The member for Mallee, whom I have spent time with in his own patch, is one of the great water engineers in this parliament. He understands the DNA of the water engineering process. Our goal, our task and our responsibility is very clear: rather than to have a buyout of rural Australia it is to have a once-in-a-century replumbing of rural Australia. This replumbing of rural Australia is the great vision. It is the possibility of what we can and should be doing. We set aside $6 billion for replumbing rural Australia prior to the 2007 election. The vast bulk of that money remains in effective escrow in the hands of the government and has not been used. It should be used rather than being held back on ideological grounds. It is far preferable to a buyout of our farms, our farmers and our food security. This once-in-a-century upgrade of our channels and our irrigation systems is a shared project, public and private, which can save literally hundreds of billions of litres which can be shared on a permanent basis between farmers and the environment. Ultimately it helps provide greater food security and water security.

This brings me to the third of our great responsibilities, and that is international assistance. As we know, 3.1 million children die on average each year as a result of water-related diseases. This is the 21st century and we still have these losses. We cannot try to be the problem solver for all of the world, but our great task is to ensure that in our own region—in particular in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea—we are playing our role to ensure that there is a treatment regime available to kill the waterborne diseases, to kill the pests and to make sure that there is adequate treatment. It is treatment that is critical both for the drinking water and for the sewerage systems, because when they fail that is where we see that we have the great spread of waterborne illness as well as the inability to get safe, clean drinking water and all of the issues that flow from that.

Of course, the great despoiling of our coastlines is linked to the health and heritage of our great natural marine icons. I have myself been very engaged with the issue of the turtle and dugong populations. Only this evening, what we have seen is the disclosure—the second in a series by 7.30—of the slaughter and poaching of dugong and turtle populations in Far North Queensland. This is against the will and wishes of the traditional owners, and I want to note that it is also a result of wilful blindness by certain members of the state government in Queensland. I wrote on three occasions to the Premier—almost 18 months ago, and then on 6 April 2011 and 15 November 2011—warning of this practice of systemic slaughter, of poaching and of carrying the turtle and dugong meat away from Far North Queensland. This was not for traditional purposes, it was not for the allowed uses and it was certainly repeatedly done in ways which have now been revealed on 7.30 to be cruel and inhumane.

Unfortunately, the Premier ignored all three letters and the call for a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation. The then environment minister, Kate Jones, said that it was a myth that there was slaughter of turtles and dugongs. I want to repeat that: the then environment minister said to the Queensland parliament on 29 October 2009 that it was a myth. Evidence and facts were presented, it was undeniable that this practice was occurring and the then environment minister of Queensland, Kate Jones, said that the slaughter of turtles and dugongs was a myth. This was clearly wrong. It was wilful blindness. It was an unacceptable approach to dealing with the truth. This week, before the election, that minister, now a candidate for re-election in her own seat of Ashgrove, should make a statement on the reasons why she denied the poaching of turtles and dugongs. The former minister should make a statement this week on why she turned a blind eye to the slaughter of turtles and dugongs, against the wishes of traditional elders, and allowed this shocking crime to continue. The Premier should also make clear why she refused to take this strong evidence to the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission. Protecting our marine life is important; even more important is protecting the health and safety of young people around the world. I commend the motion to the House. (Time expired)