I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of reservoir management.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the minister for his commitment to me yesterday that he will provide me with the protocols—you read the Hansard, minister—that his agency, SA Water, uses.
In an interview on ABC Radio yesterday, the minister, in response to questions from Mr David Bevan about this matter, said, 'Everybody will be criticising SA Water if they didn't pump water through winter when pumping was cheap and electricity was cheap.'
My question for the minister is: can he expand on that statement and provide the chamber with a quantum of how much it would cost to pump water in winter—I think it was actually in autumn when it was pumped from the river—compared to if the water was pumped either this spring or summer, what the difference in costs would be on a relative basis?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:27 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. At the outset, I should say that she has misunderstood the explanation that I was giving, in terms of the pumping costs. SA Water pays for electricity on the spot market, as I understand it, so that they can actually time the pumping to match the lowest price on the spot market of electricity.
It is not a question of: do you pump it in autumn or do you pump it in spring, or whenever, it is a matter of the amount of time that you take to pump. The longer the time you have the greater the amount of time you can spread your pumping purchase price over the period when electricity is the cheapest on the spot market. They don't have a contract for this. They play the spot market and therefore can utilise the lowest cost of electricity to do the pumping.
If you actually shorten the period from which they can do that pumping, then they have to pump much longer and they have to disregard, in many ways, the cheapest available electricity because they have to pump over a period of time that is out of their control. That's the key difference. The longer the time they have to pump into a reservoir, the more spread over the cheap electricity times they can utilise. If you stop that and say, 'No, instead of over three months, you are going to pump it in 30 days,' then they would have to utilise the electricity at a higher rate, obviously, which is spread over much more increased prices in terms of the electricity.
So, I can't provide her with any differential other than that because the spot market changes on a minute by minute, hour by hour basis, and SA Water purchases its electricity when it is cheapest to do so. That's why they plan to pump ahead of time, so that they have enough water in the reservoirs to meet—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: So they can let it out when it floods.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —the needs of residents. The ignorance of the Hon. David Ridgway in this matter—thank goodness he will never be in charge, he will never be in government to be in charge of very important water policies. He hasn't got the first clue about how to run a business. No wonder he is here in the chamber—not the first clue. No wonder he failed as a businessman.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Minister, just one second. You don't refer to the President as 'him', if you don't mind.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: I apologise, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: I forgive you.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: But I know it was a cash business that you ran.
The PRESIDENT: Minister.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Mr President, he should pay all due deference to you, as I do, as our most illustrious President. That would be the appropriate way of addressing your eminence. All I can say is the Hon. Mr Ridgway has not got the faintest idea about how to run a business. God help us all if he gets his hands on the Treasury benches.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:29 ): Supplementary question arising from the Minister's answer: I refer to his SA Water officer, who was on radio today, who said, and I quote:
…what we try and do is to minimise the amount of pumping that we need to do from the Murray…it is expensive to pump that water across and we try and do that late summer, early autumn…when power prices are low and get water into the reservoirs then...
Can the minister explain how his officer thinks that it is cheaper to pump in late summer and early autumn, and yet the minister said it has nothing to do with the time and the seasons?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:30 ): The honourable member has expressed her ignorance in this matter. The two of us have not made any difference. He says, 'We pump when the electricity is cheapest.' That is exactly what we do. The longer period of time you have to pump, the cheaper the price schedules that you can actually go for. So you do not pump for 12 hours a day, you might only pump for three hours when the prices are low and you can spread that out over three months. What is so hard to understand about that?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:31 ): Further supplementary: so is the minister saying that it makes decisions about—
The Hon. I.K. Hunter: Don't put words in my mouth.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I haven't even got there yet.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member—
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: We don't need any help from you, the Hon. Mr Wade. The Hon. Ms Lensink has the call. I want to hear her question in silence.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you for your protection, Mr President. Minister, you can choose to tell me whether I am correct or wrong or not, I am sure. You have not even heard what I have to say. Is the minister saying that part of SA Water's decisions about when it pumps and whether it is pumping critical human needs water from the River Murray into the reservoirs are based on spot prices, and it uses those opportunistically as part of its decision about volumes that it is going to pump into the reservoirs?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:32 ): Well, Mr President, I never rise to these tricksy lawyer tricks that the Hon. Michelle Lensink is picking up from the Hon. Mr Wade, and others, about 'is the minister saying this'. Just listen to what I am saying and take no more from it than at face value. I have said in this place previously, SA Water has a very complicated system of analysis of when they pump, how much they pump, on projections—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Well, these are experts, the Hon. Mr Ridgway. I do not think you will ever understand it. These are experts who are employed to do this, based on an exquisite level of complicated modelling, and they usually get it right. In their defence, if you are trying to deal with climatic conditions of such variability that we have in South Australia, and which will become even more frequent due to climate change, if they only get it right 99 per cent of the time, then I think they are doing a pretty good job.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:32 ): Further supplementary, and I thank the honourable minister for his explanation: when would he like to provide me with a briefing on these exquisite models? Does he need me to write to him or can we do an office-to-office negotiation?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:33 ): I am happy to accommodate the Hon. Michelle Lensink however she pleases.