SA Water - Pipe Renewal Budget

My question is to the Minister for Water and the River Murray regarding SA Water's budgets. Why is the pipe renewal budget for 2015-16 35 per cent less than in the previous financial year, at the same time as South Australians are paying the highest average water prices in Australia?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:24 ): The honourable member is completely wrong on both her premises, of course. That is because over on that side they don't actually care about the facts. She has been away, out of the parliament for a little while, while I have been telling the parliament what the facts are. Clearly, she has not been paying attention during that time. Again, all she needs to do is to look at the Bureau of Meteorology reports, the ACCC reports—all of those independent third-party reports which show that, in fact, South Australians do not pay the highest prices for water in the country; we are about mid-range. ESCOSA itself gave evidence to that effect to the Hon. Mr Lucas' committee I suspect—was it earlier this year or late last year? However, of course, the Hon. Mr Lucas might not have passed that information on to the Hon. Michelle Lensink but I am happy to do that right now.

In relation to the budget figures that the Liberals got completely wrong on the weekend, what they got completely wrong was that they released two sets of budget figures from two years. They and the Hon. Michelle Lensink should know that ESCOSA with SA Water set three-yearly plans, where they lay out what they are going to spend over a three-year cycle for renewal of infrastructure—three-yearly plans. The Liberals only put out two years of that plan and when they set those plans they set for that three years what that level of expenditure will be.

The Hon. Michelle Lensink says that perhaps we should actually put out $39 million every year and spend the same amount every single year. That is pointless, absolutely pointless. SA Water set out what they will be expending in a prudent manner and ESCOSA sign off to say, 'That is a prudent use of your resources and a prudent expenditure,' and they will then plan it over three years. To make the Hon. Michelle Lensink happy, presumably she is asking me to direct SA Water to spend exactly the same amount in equal dollar terms every single year of that three years. That is not the case. What they actually do is plan out what they are going to spend and then utilise those funds for the project. Of course, some projects cost more than others and that is why in some years you will see more expended than in other years.

Another point Mr Pisoni did not pick up, the member for Unley in the other place, when he put out this spurious information to the media, right above that table he put out from the budget papers, he absolutely missed another expenditure for pipe renewal because no, it was not under that header: it was under major projects because of the level of expenditure. He completely missed that and did not put it in his calculations either, or it did not suit his case in this situation. The Hon. Michelle Lensink did not even pick it up herself. What a bunch of dunces.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:27 ): I have a supplementary question arising from the answer in which the minister tried to imply that ESCOSA directs how SA Water expends its funds. I quote from an ESCOSA document—and can the minister reflect on his answer—where it states:

The expenditure benchmarks set by the C ommission for the purpose of determining regulated revenues do not dictate the actual amount of expenditure that SA Water must incur or how SA Water should direct its expenditure. Rather, SA Water is responsible for managing its daily network operations and maintaining supply reliability and services to customers; it must decide appropriate expenditures to meet its obligations and to maintain the long-term integrity of its networks.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:28 ): And they sign off and say, 'That is a prudent amount of expenditure.' Here we are, the document that the Hon. Michelle Lensink supposedly supports the Liberal Party putting out, which talks about pipe network renewal for the 2015-16 budget and right above—and I seek leave to table this document which comes from the budget statement.

Leave granted.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: What did they miss? They have missed the Hackney and North East Road trunk water main renewal March 2016, $13 million. They did not add that into their figures because it was not convenient. It did not fit the story they were trying to peddle, the story they were trying to con people with. So $13 million was completely missed by Mr Pisoni, the member for Unley, in the other place. Why? Because he has no clue about how to read budget papers.