Murray-Darling Basin Authority

06 Feb 2013 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: As part of the Mid-Year Budget Review the government announced that it would be cutting the state's contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority by $14 million a year. My question for the minister is: before cutting the state's contribution for the operation, management and maintenance of critical infrastructure, such as regulators, barrages, locks and salt interception schemes, did the state government request advice from any of the following agencies: SA Water, the Goyder Institute, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority or the EPA?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:28): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. I am sure that she, along with everybody else in South Australia, has been getting fully behind the campaign led by our Premier Jay Weatherill to take up the issue with the Eastern States and make sure that South Australia—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: He's a complete hypocrite.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The honourable member makes an accusation that can only be turned back against the opposition.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: He cuts funding, leaves us in a weak bargaining position.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The reason we cut funding—and of course we have not cut funding yet; it is a flagged measure—the reason is because your friends in New South Wales have cut their funding by over 60 per cent and have promised to cut it even further. In this state we have flagged our intention, as is right and proper, that in the future, in 2014-15, we will reduce our funding as well. We understand that those friends of ours in New South Wales do not like being dragged, kicking and screaming, to the table, where they will have to address some of their inefficiencies in the system, so we have left the door open so that we can talk to them in a more sensible fashion about how they might put that money back into the system.

We will continue our funding at the present levels to 2014-15, and we will talk to the Eastern States about their commitment. What the honourable member is suggesting in her question is that we continue our funding at the same levels and subsidise New South Wales, providing more money to projects per capita than we are entitled to and subsidise projects in New South Wales which the New South Wales government should be anteing up for. That would be irresponsible, and that would be bad news for our state because we are paying for projects in New South Wales.

Irresponsible, but that is the Liberal Party for you. They did not want to fight for the Murray. They were prepared to put up their hand and take the deal that was on the table from Victoria and New South Wales, short-changing our state. It took a Labor Premier—Jay Weatherill—to stand up to those people in the Eastern States, and we had to drag the Liberal Party along with us. They cowed and they did not want to be part of it. We won that extra water for our state, and we will fight to make sure the Eastern States put their due amount of water into that program.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:31): I have a supplementary question.

The PRESIDENT: Did you hear any of the answer?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Not the answer, Mr President; I did not hear the answer.

The PRESIDENT: I will give you some latitude. I assume that you have a supplementary arising from the answer.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, Mr President. Minister, what advice did you get before making that decision and from what agency?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:31): As the honourable member knows full well, that decision was taken by a former minister. Of course, it was a decision taken at cabinet, of which I was a participant. I have to say to the honourable member again: look to your friends and see what they are doing for South Australia and the South Australian irrigators. Rather than coming into this chamber holier than thou and trying to hold us to account, go and talk to New South Wales about their 60 per cent reduction, and then come back and talk to me.