Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:28): I will continue my appropriation contribution with a little bit of a history lesson on the Murray-Darling Basin. It is of concern that we have a Labor government that is now going to contribute $2.1 million for a commissioner to do the work that the minister should be doing. I cannot understand, cannot believe, that a Labor government continues to avoid doing the hard work in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
South Australia again has led the way with reform in the Murray-Darling Basin. We pushed for action to address rising salinity, even back as far as the 1980s, with the implementation of the salt interception schemes and world-leading technology. One that comes to mind is Sentek. Sentek is a great South Australian company, exporting all over the world, with its beginnings at the Loxton Research Centre in the Riverland.
South Australia also supported national action on water security at the height of the Millennium Drought that led to the commonwealth's Water Act and the Murray Darling Basin Plan. South Australians supported the establishment of a royal commission in opposition to tackle water theft and maintain the integrity of the basin plan implementation. As I have said many times in this place, metering is the essential base of water use. If you cannot meter it, you cannot manage it.
We are the state of innovation, and we continue to lead the way in the basin by example. That is why South Australia must continue to strive to lead the way to achieve its contribution towards the 450 gigalitres for the southern connected basin. We must not stop being forward thinkers. How do we achieve the 32 gigalitres as part of South Australia's component to the 450 gigalitres? Does the state government have a role to play? Yes, they do. Turn on the desal, a taxpayer-paid piece of infrastructure that is sitting there collecting spiderwebs, collecting dust.
Other initiatives include off-farm environmental projects; the flow from the Murray into Lake Albert, connected to the North Coorong; more mechanisation of the barrage gates; more wetting and drying wetlands and backwaters; and perhaps a groyne at the mouth to use wave action to keep the mouth open. River communities have done their part and the food producers have played their part too. If South Australia is to succeed in gaining and maintaining a healthy, working river, then they all need to pay their part.
We cannot forget tourism. In the Riverland, tourism is the second largest economic contributor, with $232 million going into the local economy. South Australia has always been a national leader in water conservation. We led the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; we cannot walk away from it now. Have a look at the opportunities to achieve the basin plan in full. Riverland irrigators and their communities have done the heavy lifting to date.
With low commodity prices, buybacks should not be a part of the solution. Certainly, at this point in time it would be preying on the vulnerable. We saw what buybacks did in the initial Murray-Darling Basin strategy. It created a Swiss cheese effect, where there were ongoing supply charges with fewer irrigators, and it drove many out of business. I would also like to see other methods to achieve the 3,200.
We have to look at other environmental works and measures off-farm, efficiency programs. We must droughtproof and futureproof our farms for the region. It has taken over a century to place the basin into this precarious state. We are not going to fix it overnight. Again, buybacks are not the answer. Water can be the creator of wealth in South Australia, and we need to continue to feed the world. It also underpins the state's economy.
Millions and millions of dollars here in South Australia are generated from the Murray's contribution to not only food production and vibrant communities but also forward thinkers, so South Australia must be the exemplar. We must bang the drum loud and clear if we are going to achieve the basin plan in full. We have led by example once before. We must now continue that legacy.
In closing on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, it is imperative that this parliament supports the River Murray rebuild, the environmental water that needs to be put back into the river system, so that we have a healthy, working river, not only so that we have a sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren but also so that we have the capacity to feed many, many millions of mouths right across the world.