Michelle Lensink

Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation's behaviour at Rigoni's restaurant

How sincere is your apology considering you stated you would behave that way again?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:39): Question No. 3: I seek leave to make a brief explanation
before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation questions regarding his
behaviour at Rigoni's.
Leave granted.
The Hon. P. Malinauskas interjecting:
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
Was that a groan? I'm sorry.
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order!
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
It's such an unimportant matter, isn't it? The Minister for
Police—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! Will the honourable Leader of the Government please desist, and
will the honourable whip of the opposition please desist. The Hon. Ms Lensink has the floor.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
Thank you, and may it be noted for the record, for the
information of White Ribbon, that the Minister for Police just guffawed at my opening remarks. I will
continue. One prominent journalist has described the minister's behaviour, and I quote:
I mean he's not even at the table because he flipped the table and walked out and then you have other
examples with Business SA and the Law Society…just not engaging on getting solutions. That is not in any way
standing up for South Australia, it is standing up for your ego and emotion, but not in any way it's going to get outcomes.

My questions for the minister are:
1. Will he concede that he has breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct?

2. Does he maintain that he would still behave the same way if he had his time again?

3. How sincere is your apology considering you stated you would behave that way
again?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation,
Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (14:41):
I thank the
honourable member for her most important questions and the opportunity to address some of the
substantive issues that arose and gave rise to my inappropriate language, because that's the thing
the Liberals are running away from at a million miles an hour. They are not interested in the issues
that are important to this state in terms of the River Murray—not interested in those issues.
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! The minister has the floor.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
The Liberals wouldn't recognise a spine if they fell over one. These
guys over here have not stepped up any activity whatsoever against the federal government and the
Nationals' Barnaby Joyce's desire to strip South Australia of the aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin
Plan which were integral to our accepting to sign up to that plan.
South Australians, on the other hand, know how important the River Murray is. It's not just
for our economic future, it's also a tourism drawcard and holiday favourite for South Australian
families and interstate families. We understand as South Australians how precious water is, and
that's why we rallied together in 2012 to fight for the River Murray. We were so successful that we
secured the 3,200 gigalitre commitment for our state.
You can imagine then my disappointment when I received the Deputy Prime Minister
Barnaby Joyce's letter before the dinner scheduled on the evening ahead of the Ministerial Council
of water ministers. Mr Joyce's letter indicated that he was not committed to the plan in full. Mr Joyce's
letter was a fundamental breach of faith on a basin plan that South Australia has signed up to that
ensured the health and sustainability of the River Murray. Mr President—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! This is not a general discussion. The honourable minister will
answer the question.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
—so that members of the chamber not familiar with this issue might
understand my wrath, I seek leave to table the letter that the Hon. Barnaby Joyce sent to me, dated
17 November 2016.
Leave granted.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
He was indeed the acting prime minister, I think, as of about 11pm
of that day. As has been widely reported, I attended that pre-meeting dinner and indicated in the
strongest terms that this government would be holding the commonwealth government to account
and it must deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full. That was after trying to spend
two hours with the Hon. Mr Joyce, patiently and diplomatically trying to make the point to him about
how important the plan, in full, was to South Australia—a commitment that, I understand, has now
been secured thanks to South Australia's intervention on Barnaby Joyce's intention to tear up that
basin plan.
The South Australian government had raised its concern when Mr Barnaby Joyce was
appointed to the water portfolio. We held concerns that Mr Joyce would seek to represent his cotton
and rice growing mates upstream, and those concerns were realised in his letter to me on
17 November 2016. I have tabled that letter, so there can be no calls from those members opposite
on what Mr Joyce's intentions might or might not have been—it is as plain as the nose on their face.
I welcome Mr Marshall's support for the basin plan, Mr Marshall, the Leader of the
Opposition, the member for Dunstan, albeit some days after receiving Mr Joyce's letter indicating
that he had no intention of delivering the plan—better late than never for Mr Marshall's support of the
state government's commitment to the River Murray. I was concerned, in the initial commentary
coming from the Liberal Party on this issue—

Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! The Hon. Minister for Police, please desist. The Hon. Mr Lucas,
please desist—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
—and everyone else desist. Order! Leader of the Government, we are
trying to get some order during question time. If you persist, I will have no alternative but to name
you. Understand?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
So, I was somewhat concerned at the initial commentary coming
from the Liberal Party on this issue. The state Liberals and the federal Liberals seem to be scrambling
every which way, unaware of Barnaby Joyce's intention to walk away from the basin plan. The
shadow minister, Tim Whetstone, didn't even seem to understand that there was a basin plan with a
commitment to 3,200 gigalitres of water to the river. His interview on 18 November on ABC Riverland,
called the 450 gigalitre commitment a 'side deal' and he went on further to suggest that the 450 is
something separate from the basin plan. That is the level of understanding that we have in the state
Liberals. Just to be clear—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order!
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Just to be clear, page 214 of the basin plan—and I might seek
leave to table that, Mr President—clearly identifies at schedule 5, clause 1:
(1) The outcomes listed below are ones that will be pursued under the Commonwealth’s program to
increase the volume of water resources available for environmental use by 450 GL per year.
That is page 214 of the plan, the plan that the honourable Mr Tim Whetstone doesn't seem to have
read past the executive summary.
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink:
Did you breach the code? You wouldn't have read the whole
thing yourself; we know you're too lazy.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Hopefully his colleague, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, has understood
the plan a little bit better because she told 891 on the same day that the basin plan is 'an act of law
and there's 3,200 gigalitres.' So, at least the Hon. Michelle Lensink understands, if the honourable
Mr Tim Whetstone has no clue. Clearly, the Hon. Michelle Lensink has read past the executive
summary and knows a little bit more than her mate.
Then, we have Mr Tony Pasin, member for Barker, who was reported in
The Sydney Morning
Herald
as suggesting that Mr Joyce had mishandled the issue and needed to do better by South
Australia. Do better indeed. That's what this South Australian government is deeply committed to:
ensuring the commonwealth government does do better for South Australians. We will not waver
from our commitment to the river and to the people who rely on it for their livelihoods, to ensure they
still get the water that they need to support their businesses and industries, but also to ensure the
river's health is not compromised and is sustained long into the future.
I will continue to stand up for that outcome, I will continue to fight for the full delivery of the
basin plan, and that means 3,200 gigalitres in full—not bits and pieces of it; in full.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:48): Supplementary: did the minister or did he not breach
the code of conduct?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation,
Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (14:48):
The Liberal's
constant negativity and their lack of ideas—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —are bad enough for this state. They are so out of touch with
South Australians, it is embarrassing. They are so out of touch with the people of this state, it is
amazing. They are skirting around the issue that is most important to this state, which is about: will
the Liberal government stand up and deliver what they have promised to do as a federal government?
Will they do it? Will they haul in Barnaby Joyce?
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! Minister.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Will they haul in Barnaby Joyce, who had his own little plan when
he ascended to the acting prime minister status to think, 'Well, I'm going to give this a go. I'm coming
to Adelaide, I'm the acting prime minister, I'm going to blow this plan up and see if the states cave
in.' Then he would have gone back to his Liberal National Party cabinet and said, 'Well, everybody's
caved in. There's not an issue. Let's take that water out of the plan and then give it to rice farmers
and cotton farmers in the north of the basin.' That's what he wanted to do. You can see his thinking
as plain as day.
Unfortunately for Barnaby Joyce there was a South Australian at the table. There was a
South Australian at the table who was prepared to say, 'We will not take it.' I have to contrast that
with the spineless behaviour of the member for Dunstan, the Leader of the Opposition, who, licketysplit, ran off to Canberra for a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister. What did he come back
with?
Members interjecting:
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
What did he come back with? Nothing at all, but a photo. He came
back with a JPEG. That's all he had, a JPEG for his social media and—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order!
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Mr President, I have to say it is offensive that the Liberal Party in
this state will never stand up to the federal Liberal government—they will never stand up to a federal
Liberal government, even in the interests of South Australians. Just to give you a little bit of
background: on 22 September 2015, I sent a letter to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, the federal Minister
for Agriculture and Water Resources, outlining South Australia's ambition to work constructively with
the government to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
I sent the letter because the Premier and I were worried when the Prime Minister appointed
Barnaby Joyce as the federal minister for water. I was worried because Barnaby is someone who
has consistently ignored South Australia and the lower regions of the Murray. He seems to have the
attitude that any water that goes past his front gate is wasted water. This is the same Barnaby Joyce
who said that South Australian irrigators should just get up and move to where the water is. That was
his plan. That was his solution: don't make the river work for everybody on the river, just move north
where the water is, because they weren't going to let any water come over the border. I seek leave
to table his response, dated 20 October 2015.
Leave granted.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
He, at the time, in 2015, recommitted to the water recovery volumes
required under the basin plan. He states in that letter:
The Australian Government is committed to achieving healthy rivers, strong communities and sustainable
food and fibre production in the Murray-Darling Basin by implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full and on
time.
That was 2015—that was before the federal election, of course. Fast forward a year, and we see
how quickly things have changed in Barnaby Joyce's thinking. His 17 November 2016 letter to me
revealed his true intentions: to walk away from those commitments and protect the interests of his
cotton and rice farmer mates.
He states in his letter that the return of the 450 gigalitres, which is critical environmental
water, is 'unsolvable'. That is his view: it's unsolvable. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was agreed to
by all four basin states and the federal government. It is clear that South Australia is not the only
state that is concerned by lack of progress on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, thankfully. I have been
advised that the Minister for Environment and Heritage in the ACT has written, sharing this view:
I share your concern about the lack of progress on the integrated package of measures related to the
sustainable diversion limit and the constraints measures since the April Ministerial Council meeting, and indeed the
apparent lack of commitment from New South Wales and Victoria especially in pilot efficiency measures.
This legislation that delivered the plan was voted for and passed by federal parliament in 2012,
supported by both sides of politics. Four years later, we have a federal government, led by a water
minister, trashing that agreement. Instead of leadership, we have a federal water minister eyeing that
$1.77 billion allocated to providing 450 gigalitres of critical environmental water, wanting to hand it
out to his mates upstream.
We expect this kind of treatment from the National Party. We even expect it from the federal
Liberal Party, but I don't expect from the South Australian Liberal Party, but that's what we have got.
For once, I thought the opposition would join with the government and the entire state and stand up,
united, fighting for our fair share of water. I couldn't believe it when the member for Chaffey, Mr Tim
Whetstone, as I said, on 19 November told regional radio listeners in the Riverland that the
450 gigalitres of water allocated to the Murray was 'something separate from the basin plan.'
South Australians deserve better than that from the state Liberals. Being in government is
about delivering and defending policies that benefit our community. I make absolutely no apology
that I will stand up for the Murray River and for South Australia's interests, and ensure that the federal
government demonstrates that they will deliver this plan on time and in full. No longer will we accept
promises of action: we want to see action.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:55): Did the minister or did he not breach the Ministerial
Code of Conduct?
The Hon. R.I. Lucas:
He doesn't want to answer that question.
The PRESIDENT:
Do you want to answer that question?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation,
Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (14:55):
I have,
Mr President, but I think I can take another 20 minutes of the chamber's time to reinforce—
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! Allow the minister to answer the question.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
I say again that I have certainly apologised to those people to
whom I spoke in a very inappropriate way. Absolutely, I have, but standing up for South Australia is
what is expected of us in this place. I would think that members opposite should be asking why their
federal government has plans to tear up the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Why has Barnaby Joyce
swaggered into Adelaide and tried it on by saying, 'That 450 gigs that South Australia required'—

Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! Let the minister answer the question.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
—'to sign up to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, we're going to take
that away from you. We're going to go hell for leather on that bit of the plan that South Australia
doesn't like, the down water, which New South Wales and Victoria insisted be part of the plan for
them to sign up, but that component of the plan that South Australia insisted be in there'—so that we
would sign up to that compromise plan—'we're going to take that away from you.' That was Barnaby
Joyce's line to us in Adelaide: 'The bits that you don't like, we're going for that, full steam ahead, but
those bits that took you, South Australia, over the line'—
The PRESIDENT:
Point of order, the Hon. Ms Lensink.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
Mr President, I draw honourable members' attention to standing
order 186 in regard to a member who persists in continued irrelevance, prolixity or tedious repetition.
The PRESIDENT:
Minister, can you quickly finish your answer.
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! I have asked you to finish answering the question.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Of course, I respect your ruling, Mr President, but I remind you that
when a minister might be a little bit prolix or repetitive, it is probably due to the question being asked
of him time and time and time again, which I answer time and time and time again in a consistent
manner. The important thing here is: who is going to stand up for South Australia? Is it the Liberal
Party of South Australia? No, not in a million years.
Members interjecting:
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
That's right.
Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT:
Order! If you don't want to hear his answer, I will ask the minister to sit
down and I will go to the next question. The fact is, though, that the standing order as mentioned by
the Hon. Ms Lensink is during debate, not questions without notice.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER:
Thank you, Mr President, for your erudite ruling on that matter. I
will bear that in mind as well for future points of order. The only thing the Liberal Party brought back
was a selfie. That is all they brought back from Canberra—a selfie, a JPEG, a meme for the Leader
of the Opposition's, the member for Dunstan's, Facebook page. That is all he had.
It wasn't even Chamberlain's bit of paper with a signature on it. It wasn't even that. He did
not come back with a signed statement. He did not come back with a signed promise. He came back
with a selfie. We need more than that from the Liberal Party in South Australia: we need some
leadership. The only leadership that is coming in parliament is from the Labor Party and Jay
Weatherill's government.

 

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