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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11926

Mr WINDSOR (5:36 PM) —There are couple of issues that I would like to speak about briefly. I support the member for Murray in terms of amendment (6) to the Water Amendment Bill 2008. It seems to me that not supporting it makes a nonsense of what we are trying to achieve in relation to the totality of the Murray-Darling system, particularly when there are other options available. Most of our capital cities are surrounded by water, but there are problems with that water in that it has salt in it. Some cities are taking the salt out of the water and using the water, and we are told that, if climate change does persist—I think it probably will, and I support the government on its initiatives; in fact, I encourage it to do more than what it seems it is going to do—and polar meltdowns occur, we are going to have more water around our cities. So to be taking a highly valuable resource and transferring it back to a city from an inland river system seems to me to be the height of absurdity when all those other options are available. I sat on a committee that looked at some of the options for Melbourne a few years back, and I do not think any of those recommendations have been taken into account.

The other issue I want to speak briefly about is the disaster that has occurred in the Coorong and the Lower Lakes. Here again, I have real difficulty in reconciling the logic. I remember Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Wong travelling to the Murray mouth—and I have been to the Murray mouth on a number of occasions to look at what is happening down there. They were making the point, in terms of the Murray mouth and this legislation, that we had to do something for the totality of the system rather than four states governing the river systems—we had to do something because what we had done in the past was a massive mistake. There are certain issues that we can all argue about: barrages, for instance. What are they doing there? Who put them there? Why are they there?

Mr Briggs —Because we regulate it.

Mr WINDSOR —I know what the answer is but, if we are trying to gain a more natural system, should they be there in the first place? Lake Alexandrina and the smaller lakes have destroyed the surrounding environment. But the point I make in terms of that issue is that, if we agree with the logic that the Prime Minister and Minister Wong were using, that we have made mistakes in the past, then we really should do something to make sure that it does not happen again. To do that, we need a process, a basin plan that this legislation goes towards putting in place. Why would we not get the science right in terms of the water within the system? Why, suddenly, is the mining industry exempt when the irrigation industry is not? Why are we condemning past procedures—in terms of allocation, land clearing and some of those issues—and then sitting back in this place and allowing an activity like mining?

I am not against coalmines; I have a coalmine next door to me and I work well with it, but surely, Minister Garrett, we need to examine the science of these systems and work out how they work to start with—because we do not understand that—and then overlay a three-dimensional map, in a sense, of what would happen if we allow an activity such as mining to take place in the various groundwater systems. The logic, Minister, does not fit. I agree—and I have argued for quite some years—that we should be doing something about the Murray-Darling system, and I am pleased to see something is being done. But to exempt big business in an area where there is a highly productive food-producing capacity makes a nonsense of the logic.

The previous government spent $8 million on water reform and not one megalitre of water was added back into the system. I would hate to see this legislation wend its way through history and another $10 million spent with very little— (Time expired)