Murray-Darling Basin Plan Question

Mr PEDERICK: My question is to the Minister for Environment and Water. Will the minister explain to the house how South Australia will benefit from yesterday's basin plan announcement from the commonwealth minister for agriculture and water?

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Minister for Environment and Water) (14:48): Thank you to the member for Hammond for a question which no doubt is near to his heart and to many of his constituents, as well as the constituents represented by the members for MacKillop, Finniss and Chaffey in a very direct way. But no doubt all members of this house would represent people who have a very significant interest in the health and sustainability of the River Murray, an incredibly important environmental but also economic asset for our state and our nation.

The great part of yesterday's announcement, which is, for those members who are not aware of it, that the federal Labor Party will provide bipartisan support for the sustainable diversion limit adjustment, meaning that the disallowance motion will not progress when voted on in debate tonight. The great part of that is really the bipartisanship that is being presented by the federal Coalition and the federal Labor Party.

When I became the Minister for Environment and Water for South Australia, it became very clear to me within hours of taking the job that relationships needed to be repaired, relationships in South Australia but also relationships with interstate colleagues on the Labor, Liberal and National sides of the political divide as well as with our federal colleagues. If our state is not at the table advocating for the health of the River Murray, we are not going to be able to get good outcomes for the river in this state.

For far too long our state was screaming from the sidelines when it came to the River Murray. Under the guise of standing up for South Australia, we had actually trashed relationships across our nation and were unable to deliver. If you are not at the table you can't deliver for the state you are saying you are standing up for.

It was within my first week of becoming this state's Minister for Environment and Water that I travelled to Canberra to meet not only with ministers Littleproud and Ruston but also with the federal shadow minister, Tony Burke, some would say the architect of driving the plan forward in the early years of the Rudd government. Being able to sit down with ministers Littleproud and Ruston and also shadow minister Burke was incredibly important to symbolically, as well as in a practical sense, say that South Australia is back at the table, that we are interested and fighting for our state. We will always fight for the state when it comes to the River Murray but, importantly, we will fight with other states as well as partner with them to deliver for the river in a nationwide sense.

South Australia has a history of being a leader when it comes to the River Murray and the Murray-Darling Basin, and we can now be back at the table and be a leader again. The plan is not perfect; we know that. It has many shortcomings, but it does give us a structure and a framework and a series of very clear targets to work towards. Most importantly, from South Australia's view, is the delivery of the 450 gigalitres. That is a figure continually bandied around, but clearly it is one now being moved towards, and I am pleased that the commonwealth has announced a commitment to commence an expression of interest process for efficiency measures towards delivering that 450 gigalitres.

The plan is on the table. We are at the table. The new government is working towards the fulfilment of that plan, and I believe that in a bipartisan sense, with the opposition, we can deliver for this state.

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