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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12807

Murray-Darling Basin

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (14:33): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the government getting on with the job of securing the future of the Murray-Darling Basin?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:33): I thank the member for Kingston for her question, and I acknowledge that the member for Kingston along with other government members from South Australia—indeed, all of the government members from South Australia—have been keenly interested in the future of the Murray. Representing their constituents, the people of South Australia, in this place they have felt acutely the consequences for the Murray when there have been severe droughts, and they have felt for the people of South Australia how important it is for the Murray to be returned to long-term environmental health. These are sentiments that I can well and truly understand. Growing up in South Australia, you know that the health of the Murray, that great river, is pivotal to the health of that state.

As Prime Minister working on water reform for the nation it has also become increasingly clear to me that it is pressing for the whole nation for us to deliver the right reforms for the Murray-Darling Basin to make sure that we get it right for the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin and to make sure we get it right for the long-term future. That is why I truly believe we are presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a long-term plan for the future of the Murray-Darling Basin. We are getting on with that job.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has proposed a plan starting with a benchmark of 2,750 gigalitres of environmental water, and the same authority has recently released modelling which shows that we could deliver an additional 450 gigalitres by removing constraints in the system and funding river infrastructure. Importantly, the plan proposed by the authority stipulates that additional water above the benchmark should only be acquired through ways that deliver additional water without negative social and environmental consequences.

I was pleased to stand in South Australia with the minister for the environment and water and to say that we want to make this happen. We want to make the 450 gigalitres extra happen, and we have allocated $1.7 billion in the mid-year budget estimate to make it happen. Contrary to what was mentioned in the House yesterday by those opposite, this was provisioned for in MYEFO.

I congratulate all of those who have campaigned for the long-term health of the Murray-Darling Basin. I once again congratulate government members for doing so. I congratulate the Adelaide Advertiser for its campaign in mobilising the people of South Australia. I also congratulate the Premier of South Australia for his strong leadership of that state and for his pressing for the importance of this major reform. It is a plan for the future and we intend to deliver it. (Time expired)