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Motion: Select Committee on the Findings of the Murray Darling Basin Royal Commission

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition) (20:03): I move:

That the interim report of the [Select Committee on Findings of the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission and Productivity Commission as they Relate to the Decisions of the South Australian Government] committee be noted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (20:03): I rise to make a brief contribution. During the debate, when we first established this committee, I said at the time that this parliament and the public deserve to know just why a government would capitulate, why other states act the way they do, and that all of our interests are being served or, as has been claimed, that the best interests of this state, for our river and for our communities that are crying out for help, are being served.

That is as true now as it was then. But what we still do not have, as far as I am concerned, is any proper reasoning from this government and from the relevant minister, the Minister for Environment and Water, that would explain or make up for this gross capitulation. We have not even had tangible results from that decision.

The Greens have been saying this for a while, but while many in the community—stakeholders, experts, farmers and environmentalists; a quite diverse list—know that the government is not doing enough, or not doing the right things, to deliver that vital water for our state, this committee saw quite clearly during our hearings that this was the case. Many submissions and witnesses raised concerns about the plan not delivering the outcomes required, particularly for the state of South Australia.

I wish to look back on the Minister for Environment and Water's comments made in 2019, when he was quite chuffed with himself about the deal he had struck with the other states on the socio-economic criteria. I quote the minister for the anti-woke brigade:

In December, a historic agreement was struck between the Murray-Darling Basin states and the Commonwealth. In a significant moment for our state, Victoria and New South Wales finally agreed to participate in the full range of water-saving projects that could deliver 450 gigalitres. We did this by bringing all the states to the table and led to the development of a package that will lead to actual water being delivered back to the river—

Well, there is not much actual water so far. I continue the quote—

while ensuring regional communities are not ripped apart—just as the original plan from 2012 demands.

I have said it all before and will say it again: what rips regional communities apart is not even having an environment that is healthy to sustain that community regardless of the socio-economic factors. Indeed, in particular this minister of this Marshall government capitulated to the other states on the socio-economic criteria that are contributing to the failure to return that goal of 450 gigalitres of water to the system.

We have a minister who continues to stand firm behind these efficiency measures and who continues to stand against using buybacks, despite the fact that we have been told repeatedly by the federal government's own research agency, the previous Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, experts and the community that water buybacks are a more effective and less costly option for recovering that required 450 gigalitres of water.

We cannot here tonight in this parliament on behalf of our state stand by while we get barely a trickle of water coming down the river. Minister Speirs has sold our state down the river for, of that 450, just over two gigalitres—two; single figures, one, two. The evidence that this committee heard was incredibly sobering and made that quite clear. It is now 2021. The deadline for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is 2024. I have very little confidence that the current approach, and this current government, is necessarily going to deliver that water, that necessary water, those 450 gigalitres of water, in that short time.

I wholeheartedly concur with the recommendations of this report, but in particular that, as recommended by the Murray-Darling Royal Commission, in 2019 the SA government revoked its endorsement of the socio-economic criteria agreed to in December 2018 relating to the water efficiency projects designed to deliver the 450 gigalitres of environmental water.

My thanks go, of course, to all who provided evidence to this committee and indeed to my colleagues on the committee as well. It is shameful, however, that our so-called Minister for Water agreed to such a dud deal. What we have now is the clear evidence and the opportunity to change that decision and ensure that this life-giving and life-saving water is finally delivered for South Australia.

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