The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:29 :00 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray questions regarding the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for South Australia (PIIP-SA) was created in 2009, with $110 million allocated to it. During supplementary federal estimates questions in November last year, the committee was told that South Australia had put forward only indicative business cases which were informal and just for comment.
In February this year, it was revealed that there 'hasn't been an interest from the South Australian government in having a third round run under PIIP-SA', despite approaches to do so by the commonwealth government. In federal estimates last week, it was made clear that South Australia is yet to put forward any official business case for irrigators to access the remaining $90 million. My questions are:
1.Why has this government failed to put forward a single official business case to access the $90 million worth of funding?
2.Can the minister outline a commitment as to when the government will put forward a business case?
3.Has the minister consulted irrigators or other interest groups on how South Australia is planning to access this funding?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) ( 14:30 :20 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. I call on her to use her influence with the federal Liberal government to try to make sure that the principles behind the funding agreement actually advantage South Australian irrigators, which to date they have not been able to do. This project of course does go for the low-hanging fruit in New South Wales and Victoria.
The South Australian government is trying to negotiate with the commonwealth government to actually make the program much more friendly to irrigators in South Australia who, quite frankly, have been doing the right thing since the 1950s, driving much more efficient irrigation programs here than they have done interstate and now, because of the federal government's policies, may end up paying the price for that in not being able to meet the requirements of that funding program.
We are working diligently with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the NRM boards to actually try to get some flexibility into the funding approvals process so that South Australian irrigators can benefit from the fund as well.