I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation about the water planning and management rip-off.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Natural Resources Committee of the parliament wrote a fairly, I think we would call it in Sir Humphrey's language, 'brave letter' to the minister on 16 June in relation to its concerns with the NRM licensing levies for 2016-17, and one of its items being point 4 'The removal of the Save the River Murray Levy and how the subsequent appropriation is to be used towards WPM costs'. The minister's response says, and I quote:
The State G overnment has always intended that a certain proportion of activities that were previously funded by the Save the River Murray Levy, and now funded by State G overnment , would be cost- recovered from water users in the future.
Given that the minister did not outline this in the previous year's estimates, can he outline—and he may need to take this on notice to go and check his records in some detail—exactly when the government started to communicate that that would be the case?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:25 ): I thank the honourable member for her sensible question. The state government is committed to ensuring that the removal of the Save the River Murray Levy does not impact on the state's commitment to maintaining and improving the health of the River Murray. That is the first point and very important. We have long intended and communicated (to the point of her question) that a certain proportion of activities, previously funded by the Save the River Murray Levy and now funded by the state government, would be cost recovered from water users into the future. This cost recovery of water planning and management costs was presented in the 2010-11 state budget—so she can do her own homework—
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: I know that; I have said that on the record. I am well aware of that.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —and go back and look at the budget papers and you will find it right there—
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: —but you didn't say that.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —in 2010 and 2011.
The PRESIDENT: No debating.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: In the 2015-16 state budget, some activities that are water planning and management related, which may have been funded by the Save the River Murray Levy but are now funded by the state, do fall within the pool of activities that are to be cost recovered. But the Department of Water, Environment and Natural Resources has long protected irrigators since, of course, the 2010-11 budget in relation to this cost recovery.
The point came about five years' later when we decided we could not do that, and even then we protected the system by only taking half of the savings that we were projecting into the future. So we have done our bit and we believe it is important there is a signal about the value of water. It is also very important—and I understand the Liberals actually signed up to this policy as well, at least in other parts of the country—that you must move to a system where there are transparent costs and they are passed on to the benefactor or the impactor. That is not controversial, as far as I understand it at least, and that is exactly what we are doing.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:27 ): Can the minister outline when the linkage from the expenses that were previously funded by the Save the River Murray Levy were to be linked to the water planning and management costs, because they certainly were not in last year's estimates when the minister was specifically asked about how those expenses would be funded. He said it was from appropriations and not from irrigators.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:28 ): I can only reiterate what I said earlier. These messages have been sent out since the 2010-11 budget and those messages have been sent out very plainly to the community that there would be water planning measurement cost recovery. It did take longer than we perceived at the time to implement that and that was to the benefit the community of course because they were protected from those increases, but they have been foreshadowed for a very long time, and even in the implementation phase we only in the first year recovered half of what we will be recovering into the future. So we provided that protection for a long time. It was in the budget papers, you can work it for yourself, go and look at them, do some work, have your staff look them up, 2010-11, you will find them right there.
The PRESIDENT: Supplementary, Hon. Ms Lensink.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:28 ): I have actually—
The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order! There's one person on their feet.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Given that I have actually been through all of these documents in some detail, and even identified in this place before that the water and planning management costs were first identified in 2010-11, can he specifically—it is a very specific question—make the link from when the Save the River Murray Levy costs were linked with water planning and management costs, which he is refusing to do?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:29 ): The honourable member does not understand the question, I assume, and—
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Well, I asked the question; I might understand what I asked.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —she has no clue about this at all. These cost recoveries—
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: You're fibbing—
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —have been highlighted—
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: —and you know you are fibbing. Your nose is getting longer.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —in the budget papers of 2010-11.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I don't know how much clearer I can be—they have been in the papers in black and white since then. Communication with the community, ongoing, has always flagged that cost recovery, and we have delivered on it.