Michelle Lensink

Water Industry Act

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray a question about the Water Industry Act.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 27 July 2011 his predecessor, the Hon. Paul Caica, on introducing the bill stated the following in the other place:

Independent economic regulation provides a transparent means of setting service standards and prices. Ultimately this is about protecting the long-term interests of customers and encouraging efficient investment in infrastructure. 

On the passage of the bill on 5 April 2012, the Hon. Paul Caica said the following in a press release:

This legislation provides an independent umpire,  giving the Essential Services C ommission of South Australia the power to regulate pricing and standards for water and sewerage services … The legislation also allows for the development of a third party access regime which will facilitate competition in the industry. 

My questions for the minister are:

1.Does the minister stand by these remarks?

2.What policies has this government implemented in the last 2½ years to give reality to South Australia's water consumers of that act? 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation)  ( 14:35  ): It is this government, and it has only been this government in this state, that has actually been consistent on its policies that deal with water. It is this government that has been dealing with the issues of the River Murray. It is this government that has been dealing with the legacy issues in terms of water supply for the people of South Australia, it is this government that introduced the regulation of SA Water by ESCOSA, and it is this government that is driving third-party access to our water industries with our draft legislation.

It is only this government, because at every turn the opposition has in the past—and I fully expect into the future—tried to frustrate this process. It has absolutely no commitment to the people of South Australia in terms of best outcomes and water policy. During the great millennium drought, what did they do when this government wanted to introduce a desalination plant that would actually produce water for the future? They criticised; they criticised us, not because they did not want a desalination plant. They certainly wanted one; they wanted half a one, just like they wanted half a road to the south, just like they have half a solution to everything.

Members interjecting: 

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the floor. 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: We see in other states, where they did build a half-size desalination plant like the Liberals wanted, that they are now building a second one. This lot opposite has no plans for the future. They took no plans on water to the state election. They took nobody in the state into their confidence in terms of what they wanted to do with water, and we all know what their secret plans were. We all know what their secret plans were, because their federal Liberal counterparts in Canberra have told us.

The federal minister for finance, Matthias Cormann, and Mr Joe Hockey, the Treasurer, come to South Australia and tell us, 'We want you to sell SA Water assets, because that is what we planned to do when we planned for the South Australian Liberal Party to win the last state election. We are going to have a deal with them to give money to them, just like we are offering around the country, if you sell off our assets.' That is something this government will not do.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 14:37  ): I have a supplementary question. Can the minister outline what consumer protections he has implemented, or his predecessor implemented, in the last 2½ years since the Water Industry Act was passed? 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation)  ( 14:37  ): I guess the bigger—

Members interjecting: 

The PRESIDENT: Can I just let you know how this is going to play out. 
 
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: He's going to answer the question properly.

The PRESIDENT: He will answer the question the way he sees fit. The crossbench would expect at least four questions today. If you are going to continually disrupt this, I will make sure they get their four questions. The honourable Mr Dawkins, you have a point of order? 
 
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: I do. The chief interjector over the top of the minister then was his ministerial colleague. I hope you would actually take note of that.

Members interjecting: 

The PRESIDENT: Order! My comments were to all, both the opposition and the government. The Hon. Ms Lensink. 
 

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you for your protection from the verballing of the Leader of the Government, Mr President. 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I believe I already had the floor to answer the supplementary of the honourable member.

The PRESIDENT: If you wish to, honourable minister. 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I was going to say, she asked what consumer protections have been introduced. I would say the biggest consumer protection that we have introduced is the 6.4 per cent drop in the price of water—not matched by those people opposite. All they are concerned with is privatisation, and we know what happened with ETSA. When it was privatised, the prices went up. They want to privatise SA Water, and you can see what's going to happen into the future: there will be no consumer protections whatsoever.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 14:39  ): I have a supplementary question. Can the minister match his 6.8 per cent against the over 500 per cent— 
 
The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It is 6.4. 
 
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —6.4; I am sorry, minister—over the 500 per cent increase in the tier 1 price since Labor took office? 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation)  ( 14:39  ): The reality is that consumers are faced with, in the last financial year, a 6.4 per cent reduction in the price of water and an increase of no more than the CPI in the next two years.

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