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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12068

Mr ZAPPIA (8:05 PM) —I do not question for a moment the sincerity of the member for Riverina in bringing this motion before the House, but I certainly question her motives in doing so, given that right now the Water Amendment Bill 2008 is being debated in this parliament. There was debate about it earlier today. It has been debated in the Senate, where her colleagues can raise the issues that she wants to raise. Furthermore, it was only recently debated in the House, where the honourable member did make a contribution and was able to raise all of these very issues.

For probably 100 years or so communities along the entire length of the Murray, whether they are in New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia, have come to depend on and grow as a result of the Murray River system. We have not only seen farming communities growing, whether it was through agriculture or horticulture, but we have also seen industries grow along the river system as a result of communities establishing there. Furthermore, we have seen communities grow in areas outside of the Murray-Darling Basin because of water from the Murray. I use as an example one of the key regions in my home state of South Australia, generally referred to as the Iron Triangle—the area of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla. For years, those three major regional towns have relied on the River Murray for their water supply, through the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline. It is very clear that the River Murray system is important to those people who directly rely on it to grow their crops and to the communities that the member for Riverina represents, but the River Murray system is important to so many Australians in so many parts of Australia.

Given that that is the case, I, representing my community, am just as concerned as the member for Riverina about the current state of the Murray-Darling system. I have been concerned about it for several years and in fact I have been speaking about it for probably the last six or seven years—not in this place but prior to coming into this place, as Mayor of the City of Salisbury. One of the issues that I was prepared to tackle at a local level was the issue of water. I did what was possible from within the capacity that we had—and that was to implement the wetlands systems in the city of Salisbury. I would respectfully suggest that they are world-leading wetlands as a result of the work that we did there.

The point I make about this whole matter is that, because there is so much reliance on the River Murray by so many communities across Australia, it is important, it is fundamental, that the whole Murray-Darling be managed with one plan. That is exactly what the Rudd government has attempted to do with its $12.9 billion water plan. I have taken the trouble to read the assessment of the plan in this document, Australia’s working rivers, prepared by ACIL Tasman, which analyses the plan pretty well. On my reading of this document, it confirms what I have always believed, and that is that not only do you have to manage the plan in a very coordinated and strategic way, bearing in mind that the Murray-Darling Basin affects all of Australia, but you have to manage it in a way that in the long term is sustainable—and that is exactly what the Rudd government’s plan is proposing to do. It has to be sustainable.

I just want to comment briefly on the comments made by the member for Riverina when she was quoting the young person. I too commend that young person for being prepared to speak up on this matter. In particular, I want to pick up on her comments about when the drought cycle will end and what we will be able to do—and she went on. I am not so convinced that the drought cycle will end, and I am not so convinced that it is just a drought cycle. My understanding is that it is part of long-term and permanent weather changes that we are seeing. As a result of that, it is not just a matter of a temporary fix and then going back to doing things the way we did in years gone by. This is an important issue, and because it is an important issue the Rudd Labor government has committed $12.9 billion to try to implement a sustainable, long-term plan for Australia’s water needs.