Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:01): Today, I rise to show some serious concern for the river communities here in South Australia, not by the floods but by the inaction of the Minister for Water, the Minister for Climate and the River Murray. Today, we have heard that one minute we are favouring buybacks and the next minute we are favouring infrastructure, and the mixed messages are having a really detrimental effect on those river communities. They are having a detrimental effect on the irrigation communities because they do not know whether they are coming or going.
We have seen today that the government have been prepared to tip in large money to achieve a small amount of water that would go back to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder. That is over $23,000 a megalitre that has gone back to the commonwealth, plus the state government's contribution. That is almost $45,000 a megalitre, yet market price as we speak today is $8,200. What do you think that is going to do to the water price? It is going to have a detrimental impact on the cost of water.
If we are going to be serious about buying back water, if we are going to use the South Australian water commissioner's advice to the minister—because she is clearly not sure what is going on—we have a water commissioner who is going to take the lazy Susan approach, that is, to stand on the bench and say, 'We are going to buy water back, but we are going to buy it back voluntarily.' Well, let me tell you that since 2012 voluntary buyback has been on the table. It has not achieved the desired outcome.
We saw the then water minister, Minister Wong, looking to buy back water. She bought back imaginary water out of low security areas in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, so when there were dry times there was no water, so there was no water in that basin plan. Here in South Australia, the South Australian river communities have given up their water as part of South Australia's contribution so that we can adhere to playing our part in the outcome of the basin plan.
The basin plan—2,750 gigalitres—is far from finished, yet we have a government that continue to play the blame game, that we are not achieving it. They have achieved 4½ gigalitres in their time in office. That stands to be believed. We have a government and a minister who are meant to be out there fighting for South Australia, fighting for those river communities that are looking for a healthy, working river.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is critically important to the future of our food production. It is critically important to the viability of our river communities. We also have to understand that those river communities are part of putting food on the table. Those basin communities are there for the upkeep and the maintenance of the river, but they are also the eyes and ears of the river. While every constituent here in Adelaide takes for granted that they turn on the tap and water comes out, that does not always happen. When we have an extended drought, when we have the uncertainty of government inaction, that puts the water security at risk.
What we are seeing now is another review through submissions so that the people out there can put their view across to the government. It is a lazy government that is not doing the work it needs to do. It needs to go out there and lobby the federal government to achieve more efficiencies, to find ways that we can put more water back into the Environmental Water Holder's kitty so that we do achieve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
I have already said that the commissioner has taken the lazy Susan approach, and I have already said that this government is taking the lazy Susan approach—that is, blaming everybody else bar itself. Where is the action from the minister for the River Murray? Oh, that is right, we have another productivity report coming now, so we are going to have public submissions and we are also going to have more reviews. We have just gone past the second five-year review and still not a drop comes out of these reviews—not one drop.
From where I am looking, from where my community sits, from where the member for Hammond's community sits and, potentially, from where the member for MacKillop's community sits, they are the only ones stumping up the water. They are the only ones getting paid market price for that water. They are giving up capacity in their livelihood so that they can play their role in having a healthy working river, unlike the government.
What I must say is that, to date, the river communities have found efficiencies and they will continue to find efficiencies. We have off-farm efficiency programs that are not being taken up. The department and the minister must come clean as to why they will not adopt some of those efficiency programs. We look at the Lower Lakes, and South Australia uses that as the excuse for why we need more water. The reason we need more water is that we need a healthy working river.