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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 4925


Ms KATE ELLIS (Adelaide) (13:24): I rise to speak on the Water Amendment Bill 2018 and to once again place on the record that federal Labor will stand up and will fight for a healthy Murray River wherever and whenever we need to. It's particularly the South Australian members of our federal Labor caucus who have shown that we are passionate about making sure that we have a healthy, strong and vibrant river, and we know that that is just not possible unless you ensure that the river is healthy all throughout.

When I stood in this place to make my very first speech, I made a commitment to the parliament and to the people of Adelaide that I would stand up and use my time as a member of parliament to fight for the River Murray. I'm here today to say that I intend to do that until my last speech in this parliament, because we know how critically important the river is. We know that we need to get the plan back on track, and we need to get it back on track now, which is why federal Labor have been working with the government to achieve these compromises and to make sure that the plan can proceed. We know that this plan has been worked upon for not just years or decades but a century. People have bickered about the River Murray. As South Australians, we see the result first when the Murray is not working, when consensus is not reached and when we don't have an agreement. We see it particularly in times of drought, as the member for Hindmarsh outlined to the House earlier. We also know that after a century of fighting, of different jurisdictions putting their own interests ahead of the interests of a strong and healthy River Murray, there was a historic agreement reached in 2012. We are proud that the member for Watson led those negotiations, and we are proud that it was a federal Labor government that finally saw a way forward and an agreement.

That agreement was put in great jeopardy in part because of the member for New England holding the water portfolio. This is the member who famously told South Australians if they were concerned about the health of the River Murray to just move to where the water was. We have also seen some horrendous examples of water theft, of corruption and of water being diverted away from our river system. After this evidence of water theft and corruption, we saw that, once more, the National Party, particularly the member for New England, were prepared to play politics, to say one thing to the national media but to say the complete opposite in their own communities when talking to irrigators. This was particularly so following the evidence of the water theft and corruption when the member for New England was recorded saying in a pub, 'I'm glad it's our portfolio, a National Party portfolio, because we can go out and say, "No, we're not going to follow on that".' He also went on to say, 'We'll make sure that we don't have the Greenies running the show.' Today my message to the National Party, to the member for New England and to anyone who tries to stand in the way of a healthy Murray River is that there are no jobs in a dead river. There are no jobs upstream; there are no jobs downstream. We know that we need to fight to ensure that the mouth of the river stays open and that we have the necessary environmental flows to ensure that the whole ecosystem is protected.

I know that there are some challenging elements of change for communities. I absolutely acknowledge that. But we have worked for far too long, for far too many decades, to see this plan fail. That's why the Labor Party were prepared to sit down, to compromise, to work with the government. We're really pleased with this package. We're pleased to see that the 450 gigalitres of environmental flows will be delivered. We're pleased with the commencement of recovering the 450 gigalitres through an expression of interest, that there is an assurance that the 605 gigalitre projects will be delivered by linking the payments for supply measures with efficiency measures for environmental water and that, if the 450 gigalitres isn't being recovered, the funding for the 605 gigalitres of projects won't be provided.

The member for Murray accused us of looking at short-term politics. Let's make this very clear: the Labor Party's position is about a long-term commitment to a healthy Murray River. We fought for it, we delivered a plan, and we are not going to see the politics that is being played by some put that plan in jeopardy. We will get it back on track and we will work with the government constructively to make sure that happens. We have seen that the South Australian community and, I must say, the South Australian media, including The Advertiser, have done a great job in putting pressure on members of parliament and on members of the government to ensure that this plan is delivered. But I have great fears. The draft redistribution in front of us at the moment shows no marginal seats in South Australia. I know that those opposite have only been encouraged to come to this plan because of the electoral consequences if they do not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.