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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 13790

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (19:17): I am very pleased to speak on this bill. It provides the money for the extra 450 gigalitres of water which was announced in October for permanent environmental water entitlements and for infrastructure improvements. Three bills on the Murray-Darling Basin have been considered by the parliament this year: firstly the legislation which made arrangements to allow the minister to have some flexibility in adjusting the plan upwards or downwards depending on the science; secondly the legislation on the basin plan itself, which was tabled in parliament; and thirdly the legislation that provided for an additional 450 gigalitres of water for infrastructure improvement. I put on record my support for all three of these acts.

My support for a sustainable Murray is not new; I have been interested in creating a sustainable Murray the whole time that I have been a member of parliament. I have been through the Living Murray initiative, the National Water Initiative of 2004, the Water Act of 2007 and the $10 billion package which was announced in January 2007. At the moment we are at the culmination of a six-year journey which started in 2007 with John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull. The idea then was to have national management of the Murray-Darling Basin by an independent authority: the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. I put on record my very strong support for the principle we came up with in 2007.

The MDBA could be thought of as similar to the Reserve Bank of Australia, which took over 100 years to develop as a central bank clearly independent of government. It became very clear as we went through the long, 10-year drought that the old system of having the Murray-Darling managed by the states was not working and would not be not sustainable into the future. This bill provides $1,775 million over 10 years from 2014-15 for the Water for the Environment Special Account. This account will be used to make infrastructure improvements: improving the water efficiency of infrastructure; improving infrastructure that currently constrains the delivery of environmental water; increasing the capacity of dams and storage; and entering into easement agreements.

In the electorate I represent, which is the seat of Boothby in Adelaide, among the issues uppermost in people's minds are water security and the environment. In a drought year Adelaide draws 90 per cent of its drinking water from the Murray, and, when a drought is on, these two issues are very much at the top of people's minds. Certainly, the concern about the state of the Lower Lakes and the Coorong was very much a talking point through 2007 and 2008.

The three pieces of legislation that we have been asked to consider are, I think, really the first substantial, concrete steps towards national management by an independent authority. It is a principle that I have long supported and I am very happy to support the bill in this form.