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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 4989


Senator FARRELL (4:09 PM) —I would have thought that Senator Fisher would have been too embarrassed to put her name to this particular resolution because, like me, she is a senator from South Australia.


Senator Fisher —Are you embarrassed?


Senator FARRELL —I would be embarrassed if I were you to have put your name to this resolution.


Senator Fisher —I am embarrassed about Labor’s inaction.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hutchins)—Order, Senator! You have got your seven minutes coming up.


Senator FARRELL —Yes, she would be embarrassed, because for all the years that the Howard government was in power—those 11 disastrous years for Australia—the federal cabinet was chock-a-block full of South Australians. There was Minchin, Vanstone and Hill. Pyne even got a go. There was Downer. There were all these South Australians in the Howard government cabinet, and for all the time they were there they must have been seeing all of the scientific data that is now available to us about the catastrophe that was about to engulf the Murray River. They must have seen that information, but what did they do? They did nothing. They did not spend a single cent on providing additional water for South Australia. Now we have a cabinet minister from South Australia who is doing exactly what should have been done under the Howard government.


Senator Ian Macdonald —She is hopeless!


Senator FARRELL —No, she is not hopeless; she is a very good minister. She is doing what every good South Australia cabinet minister should do. She is doing exactly what every good cabinet minister should have been doing under the Howard government but wasn’t. What were they doing? They were spending all their time in that cabinet working out ways of ripping penalty rates from 15-year-old shop assistants. They were not worried about water at all. They were worried about Work Choices and how they could take money out of the pockets of young working Australians. They were not just working out how to do it; they were advertising. I found out today when I asked the Parliamentary Library how much money was spent by the former government on advertising Work Choices. The only figures that are available so far are those for the period 2005-06. The figure is $31.8 million.


Senator Ian Macdonald —This debate is about water!


Senator FARRELL —Yes, and I am getting to the point about water. That money that was absolutely wasted on Work Choices could have been spent on buying water for South Australia, and of course it was not. It was not spent; it was wasted on Work Choices and it should have been spent on water. We have got a South Australian cabinet minister, Minister Wong, and she has spent some money. She has gone out there and has made some of the hard choices that are going to have to be made. It is all about hard decisions. There are no easy options.


Senator Fisher —It is all about the right decisions!


Senator FARRELL —Yes, and she is making the right decisions because she is buying water.


Senator Fisher interjecting—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Fisher!


Senator FARRELL —I know that you do not want to hear the truth, Senator Fisher, but you have got to listen. The truth is that Senator Fisher says to us that we have got to fix the problem of the Murray but they do not want to buy the water that is needed to send down the Murray to fix the problem. She is opposed to the federal government assisting the New South Wales government to buy this particular station to provide 20 gigalitres water. I notice that Senator Joyce referred to 40 gigalitres of water so they have not even got their facts right. Toorale Station will provide 20 gigalitres of water each year into the Murray. I know that it is a small amount but we have got Senator Fisher opposing this water going into the Murray.

But there is another senator for South Australia—Simon Birmingham. He put out a press release on 7 July 2008. In it he said:

Senator Birmingham joined Independent Senator Nick Xenophon—

yes, joined Senator Xenophon—

at a forum hosted by the Alexandria Council in Goolwa today where they backed calls by the council for the immediate release of 250 gigalitres of water from upstream storages.

We have Senator Wong doing exactly what Senator Birmingham from South Australia has asked her to do: buying some water upstream, releasing it into the river and starting to help the Murray to recover from all of the years of neglect by the Liberal government. Senator Birmingham has the right idea. He knows what South Australia needs: we have to go out there and buy some water. On the other hand, we have Senator Fisher saying, ‘No, you’ve bought this water; it’s the wrong decision.’


Senator Fisher —Tell us Toorale water will get to South Australia. You did yesterday.


Senator FARRELL —What do the South Australian Liberals want? Is this some sort of factional division that we are facing in members of the Liberal Party from South Australia? Is one a Nelson supporter and one a Turnbull supporter. Is that why we have this division in South Australia?


Senator Fisher —Tell us Toorale water will get to South Australia.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Fisher! I have warned you about a dozen times now. Do not interject again.


Senator FARRELL —Thank you for your protection, Mr Acting Deputy President. The reality is that Senator Wong is doing exactly what we need in South Australia. We need water. The purchase of Toorale Station is just the first step along the way. Labor understands that we have to provide drinking water for South Australia. We have to provide water for all those irrigators that Senator Xenophon talked about in the Riverland. We have to provide water for them and we have to try to save the Lower Lakes.

Labor has committed $3.1 billion to this process. The Liberal Party did not want to spend a zack. They were happy to spend money on advertising Work Choices, but they did not spend a zack to buy one drop of water. Labor is going to buy $3.1 billion worth and has started the process. This is the first step along the way to providing water to South Australia. Senator Joyce referred to Senator Heffernan’s claims that there had been no consultation about the sale. The truth of the matter is that the lands in the National Reserve System were assessed by officers of the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts using information provided by the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change. I think it is important to understand that the federal government is assisting in this purchase. It is actually the New South Wales government that is making the purchase. What Senator Heffernan said is not correct. There was an assessment made by the officers of the Commonwealth department.

So what are we doing at this particular station?


Senator Nash —Nothing.


Senator FARRELL —We are doing something. We are buying from willing sellers. There is a suggestion around the place from a number of misguided senators that we want to compulsorily acquire this water. No, we are going out into the marketplace. We are looking for willing sellers and this was one of those willing sellers. Of course, we are providing assistance to the New South Wales government in the form of a grant so that they can make this purchase. Toorale Station will deliver 20 megalitres of water into the Darling to flow down the system. For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, that is 20 billion litres of water.


Senator Fisher —That sounds bigger.


Senator FARRELL —Yes, it sounds like a lot and it is a lot. As a result of this purchase there will be lots of benefits to the wetlands along that section of the Darling River, including the Menindee Lakes, as well as to the Darling itself. This is all part of a water-sharing plan by the New South Wales government for the region— (Time expired)