MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Murray-Darling Basin
Mr PASIN (Barker) (16:02): The grandstanding on this issue has been herculean. The very people who killed river communities by going through industrial-size buybacks are the people that now want to lecture us about the health of river communities. Buybacks kill communities, and you know it.
What I will say is this. There’s something I haven’t said before, but I’ll say it here. I don’t often come to these things, but I’ll concede that I, and indeed this nation, are the beneficiaries of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement that the member for Watson negotiated, and he deserves credit for it.
Like so many in the nation, I was appalled at the very serious allegations of theft and corruption in New South Wales raised by the program. But my background was in the criminal law, and an allegation is just that: an allegation. I’m adamant that these allegations must be fully investigated and resolved as quickly as possible, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. But what we haven’t heard in here yet is that there are currently four investigations and inquiries underway. The first is the New South Wales independent review led by Ken Matthews, announced on 26 July. I trust those opposite aren’t casting any aspersions on Ken Matthews. The second is the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s review of compliance with the state-based regulations governing water use, announced by the Prime Minister on 30 July. The third is the Australian National Audit Office review into the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ efforts in monitoring water use in New South Wales. And the fourth is referral to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, ICAC. The last of those has powers similar to a standing royal commission. We have seen premiers resign and former ministers jailed as a result of ICAC’s activities. Nevertheless, should all these investigations failed to satisfactorily resolve the allegations, I’ll be on the front line calling for more action.
Before I get off the topic about ICAC, as I’m from South Australia could I just point out that the New South Wales ICAC isn’t like Jay Weatherill’s version of an ICAC, where the investigations and the hearings are held in secret. The New South Wales ICAC will be an open and transparent process, and I congratulate it for that.
Ms Rishworth interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The member for Kingston has had her turn.
Mr PASIN: I’ll go back to what I started with: the herculean grandstanding. I take my lead from very serious people in the Riverland. Take, for example, Gavin McMahon, who not only runs the Central Irrigation Trust but is also chair of the National Irrigators Council—he lives right down the bottom end of the river—and Chris Byrne, who heads up Riverland Wine. Do you know what they’re saying to me? They’ve gone to print on this, as well. They’re urging caution against the sort of hysterical overreaction we’ve seen from Labor. I’ll add in others—Xenophon—who have said as much, noting that the Murray-Darling Basin is working and that we need to allow these authorities to undertake their investigations.
If those who live in Adelaide were so seriously concerned about the river, particularly those in the Labor Party, they’d help me with some things. They’d help me by building an interconnector between lakes Albert and Alexandrina.
Ms Rishworth interjecting—
Mr PASIN: No, I’m sorry, Jay Weatherill has to put the infrastructure request to us
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kingston is warned.
Mr PASIN: It’s Ian Hunter who’s running a million miles an hour. Before there’s any feigned concern for the fishermen in the Coorong, why don’t we get Jay to allow us to undertake a sustainable cull of the New Zealand fur seals that are driving these people to consider suicide. That’s the point we’re at.
There are plenty of people who want to talk about ripping another 450 gigalitres out of the Riverland, indeed, out of the basin. That means 32 gigalitres from the Riverland. You come with me and tell the people of Renmark their whole irrigation district can go. The final comment goes to the member for O’Connor, who made this point to me as we walked into the chamber: do you know what the people of the Riverland—because I’ve told him before—are really scared about? They’re scared that there’s plenty of water. They just can’t afford to pump it because of what the South Australian government has done to electricity prices. That’s what they’re scared about. That’s what keeps them up at night. Shame on you! (Time expired)