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Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Page: 7667


Senator DAY (South Australia) (16:40): What an intro! To quote Oscar Wilde:

On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.

Yes, the crossbench did address this matter this morning at a press conference. As Senator McEwen says, I am a senator for South Australia, and the River Murray is indeed our lifeblood. There is a simple formula, Senator McEwen. Family farms will thrive and communities will grow if they have enough water. But the opposite is also true. Family farms and communities will shrink and die if there is not adequate water.

Personally, Senator, I do not care who has the water portfolio. We have a Murray-Darling Basin Plan and an independent Senate inquiry, of which I am proud to say I am a member, reviewing that plan. What I care about, Senator— (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Is someone drawing my attention to the state of the chamber?

Senator Williams interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Just a moment. Senator Day, I interrupted you because you were allocated one minute on the clock for speaking. There is still time in this debate, and I will seek further speakers, or I will give you the call.

Senator Williams: Mr Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to the number in the chamber. I think it is very important that they should be in here during this most important debate.

(Quorum formed)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: For the benefit of the Senate, Senator Day had one minute allocated, according to the timesheet, and a quorum was called at the conclusion of that one minute. Next on my sheet is Senator Madigan but you are still on your feet, Senator Day. It appears to me that Senator Madigan has provided two minutes of his time to Senator Day. That being the understanding, Senator Day, you have two further minutes.

Senator DAY: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President Bernardi, and thank you, Senator Madigan. Personally I do not care who has the water portfolio. We have the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and an independent Senate inquiry reviewing that plan of which I and Senator Madigan are members. What I care about is that there is certainty that whoever is responsible for water can respond urgently to the circumstances in the Basin.

Water is being sold in the Murray-Darling Basin at prices as high as $300 a mega litre out of the Goulburn-Murray water area and $240 a mega litre in the South Australian Murray River at the moment. Price does matter. It may not matter to some senators in this place but, for farmers and people in the communities that depend on the river, price does matter. These prices are double what they were last year, treble what the average price has been over the last three years.

The number of drought affected areas in the Murray-Darling Basin is expanding. As has been said in this place earlier, this season's El Nino event is predicted to be worse than previous events and likely to persist until next year. Something urgent needs to be done.