Michelle Lensink

FLOOD EVENTS

My questions are to the Minister for Water and the River Murray regarding recent storms and flooding events. Firstly, given agencies under his control are responsible for the management of assets, including the Barcoo outlet and Sturt River flood control dam and releases from reservoirs, will he table the protocols they used to determine when to release floodwaters? Secondly, has he received a full report from SA Water yet, including whether there is any liability on his agencies for stormwater flood damage? And, thirdly, has he received any advice as to whether there are pollutants which have flowed during storm events which pose a risk to human health?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:44 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. In terms of stormwater events, I am advised that, of course, SA Water does have very significant and quite complex protocols in place in terms of managing rainfall events, managing the dams and managing that the level of those dams are kept, and, of course, how much water is pumped out of the River Murray to prepare for summer.

Those protocols are indeed complex, but I will certainly ask SA Water if they have something they can provide me that I can provide to the honourable member to explain them to her. If she wants a further briefing with the technical experts, that can be arranged as well. I have, of course, asked SA Water, and it is not unusual for it to talk to me about its review of that process. It undertakes regular reviews after any major rainfall event to see how the protocols stood up and certainly how the assets stood up, and I am still awaiting that response.

In terms of this recent event, it is important to put a few things on the record. I only have to remind people in this place that they were asking questions just a few short weeks ago about the early opening allocation for irrigators in the River Murray, in April this year, of about 36 per cent—36 per cent. Why was that? Why was that early opening allocation at 36 per cent? Because it was an incredibly dry year.

We received more water into our reservoir catchments this July than we received in the whole 12 months prior. The whole 12 months prior to July we received slightly less water than we actually got in July of this year. So, when you have very large events like this, of course they test your systems, but let's remember that back at the beginning of this year we were looking at a dry rainfall year.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: That's not what the weather bureau said.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: It is what was present at April—you all knew, and you were asking questions about the 36 per cent allocation on what the water resource was like. It is important that we have this context, because all of you over there are posturing, 'Well, we should have known about this six months ago; we should have known about this eight months ago.'

The member for Chaffey was predicting there was going to be massive rainfall events. In fact, the member for Chaffey was coming into my office asking me to turn on the desal plant so Adelaide water customers would pay more for their water so these jokers over here could get away with offering free water to the irrigators. That was their water plan—that was their water plan: turn on the desal plant and charge customers more.

They don't care about the cost of living pressures on the ordinary person in Adelaide—they don't care at all. All they want to do is turn on the desal plant, drive up the cost to SA Water customers, and that is the Liberal plan for SA Water and Adelaide. Contrast that to what we have done in government by instituting regulation of SA Water and driving down the cost of water bills, on average.

Over the last two regulatory periods we have driven down costs by over $130 on the average water bill. The Liberals' plan, conversely, is to drive up bills by turning on the desal plant. They pretend the desal plant isn't already operating. They are still out there telling people it has been mothballed. Of course, the desal plant has been producing water at a minimum level ever since it was turned on and commissioned, except for those minor outages we have every winter when we flush out the membranes.

All I can say is this: the Liberals have absolutely no plan for water in South Australia. When they were in government they slashed everything they could, they privatised everything they could, and that is their only plan for the future.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:48 ): By way of supplementary question arising from that very defensive answer from the minister, will he provide the advice that SA Water had from the Bureau of Meteorology for the first half of this calendar year?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:48 ): I am sure the Bureau of Meteorology put that up on its website, and the honourable member can look that up for herself.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Wade has the floor.

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