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Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Page: 26

Senator FARRELL (3:19 PM) —I rise to take note of comments by Senator Faulkner. This of course is my first opportunity to congratulate you formally, Mr Deputy President, on your accession to your position. I am very pleased to see a fellow South Australian in a senior position in this chamber. Of course we do have another fellow South Australian who is doing an absolutely fantastic job at the moment on this issue of water, and that of course is Senator Wong. I would just like to put on record my congratulations for the steps that she has taken to deal in a serious way with the issues of water, particularly for my own state. I think it contrasts very dramatically with what we saw under the previous Howard government. It was full of South Australians—

Senator Minchin —Hear, Hear!

Senator FARRELL —Yes, Senator Minchin was one of them. It was full of South Australians. There was Senator Hill, Senator Vanstone and Mr Downer, and even Mr Pyne got there in the end. It was full of South Australians, but not one drop of water was purchased for South Australia despite all of those South Australians being in that cabinet. This previous government never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity when it came to the Murray River.

Senator Fisher —It is losing water very quickly—

Senator FARRELL —This government has taken the issue of water security—

Senator Fisher interjecting—

Senator FARRELL —You had your go. Let me have a go now. You never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity when it came to the Murray River. Now when we finally get a South Australian minister who is prepared to do something serious about the water issue—for drinking water in South Australia, for water for irrigators but, most importantly, to bring the Murray back to life—

Senator Fisher interjecting—

Senator FARRELL —We have got a minister who is prepared to do that and what do we find?

Senator Fisher —With what? How?

Senator FARRELL —We have a minister who is prepared to do that and what do we find? We find the opposition criticising the decision to buy this station. At last somebody is starting to do something about the water issue in South Australia, and it is the Labor government.

Senator Fisher interjecting—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Fisher, you have had your turn. I suggest you listen to Senator Farrell in silence.

Senator FARRELL —We have a government now that is prepared to do something about saving water in South Australia. This is the down payment; this is the first instalment of a Labor government that is prepared to bring the Murray River back to life. I made the comment in my maiden speech that I am the only South Australian senator actually born on the Murray. I was born in Murray Bridge in 1954. I remember what it was like back then when we had free-flowing water. We have not got that any more because for 12 years the opposition simply ignored the issue of water. Labor is now starting to do something about it.

What are we going to do? The first thing we want to do is secure drinking water for South Australia. The best way of doing that in the longer term is through a desalination plant. The South Australian state Labor government was prepared to do something about that and, in order to support them, the Federal government came to their assistance and what might have been a 50 gigalitre desalination plant will now be either an 80 gigalitre or, with any luck, a 100 gigalitre desalination plant. That is going to start the process of getting us water security in South Australia for drinking water.

What else are we doing? We are starting to buy stations like Toorale Station as a part of a long-term process to increase the amount of water that flows into South Australia. Adelaide needs about 230 gigalitres of water a year. The Murray, as far as it relates to South Australia, needs about 900 gigalitres of water. We are starting this process of buying it back. The previous government did nothing to do that. We have started this process and we will continue to do that. We will continue to buy water. We are not going to force people who currently have water rights to sell those water rights, but we are going out there into the market to purchase this water to get it to where we need it, which is South Australia. We are not prepared to risk Adelaide’s long-term water supply so we are leaving some of that water—(Time expired)