Murray Darling Basin Plan

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (17:35): Sadly, I stand today to speak on the importance of this current state Labor government getting their facts right. I speak on the issue of the Murray‑Darling Basin Plan. Sadly, on 24 July in another place the Hon.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (17:35): Sadly, I stand today to speak on the importance of this current state Labor government getting their facts right. I speak on the issue of the Murray‑Darling Basin Plan. Sadly, on 24 July in another place the Hon. Kyam Maher MLC told parliament that the South Australian Liberals did not even make a single submission to federal inquiries that look at the plan for the Murray-Darling Basin. In fact, the Liberals made five submissions: four of them went to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority as part of the consultation process for the basin plan, and one went to the federal parliament's Standing Committee on Regional Australia's inquiry into the impact of the basin plan in regional Australia.

So, sadly, the Hon. Kyam Maher in another place had his facts wrong, and he continued to get his facts wrong through all of his contribution on 24 July. I do not recall the government or its members making any such number of submissions. Instead, what I am seeing today is that Labor's record on water reform in the basin is one of spin and political games. It is vote-grabbing, it is hypocrisy, and it is an enormous waste of taxpayers' money.

Within a week of being installed into his new office, the Premier was in the Riverland telling irrigators he would not settle for a plan that would provide a drop less than 4,000 gigalitres returned to the environment. He also said that no more water would be given up from the irrigators and the irrigation communities. A couple of months later, the Premier was telling South Australians he would not settle for a drop less than 3,500 gigalitres—a figure based on what he said was the 'best available science'.

In the meantime, they squandered over $2 billion on a desal plant and told everyone, including their colleagues in the federal Labor government, that it would reduce Adelaide's reliance on the Murray. The federal government believed them and granted the $228 million for the expansion of the plant. Then, we found out that the plant would not save one drop of water from the river, and this government had to go out and spend taxpayers' money to buy the 6 gigalitres of water for the environment to justify the funding and to appease the federal government they misled, not to mention giving up another $200 million in GST revenue. They then mothballed the whole plant.

Not content with this hugely expensive exercise in hypocrisy, the Labor government blew another couple of million on the Premier's so-called 'Fight for the Murray' campaign. The end result was a vote-grabbing exercise with a bunch of likes on their Facebook page; it did not put one drop of water back into the river system, nor did it put any infrastructure programs in place. Luckily for the Premier, the federal Labor government partly bailed him out of an embarrassing failure by pledging another 450 gigalitres of water back to the environment.

So, where is the 450 gigalitres of water going to come from? That is the question that I will be asking the Premier every day. That is a 20 per cent discount on what the Premier told everyone that he would accept as a minimum. So, who exactly has settled for second-best, and where is the water demanded from South Australia coming from, Premier? So far, every drop of water committed to the environment for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan flows by this government has come or is going to come from irrigated food producers in one way or another.

Despite assurances of support from the Premier, and despite his assurances that he would ensure South Australian food producers' historic efficiency was recognised, the amount of water available to them will be reduced by one-third; that means fewer jobs and less economic activity in the river communities. This is the outcome that South Australia has got under Labor: a discounted basin plan, a mothballed desal plant, economic hardship in regional South Australia, and a member in another place who obviously has no idea what he is talking about. I look forward to the member acknowledging his mistake and correcting the record in the other place as soon as possible.

I do congratulate the team from PIRSA, the Riverlanders and the commodity leaders for their input into the WIA initiative, bringing some $265 million to the river communities. I also acknowledge the Premier for his vigilant effort in painstakingly negotiating that money to come to river communities. It is not all bad news, but there are people in other places who need to get their facts right.

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