House debates

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Mayo Electorate: Water

7:30 pm

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this evening in this adjournment debate to discuss an issue which is the biggest issue in my electorate and probably the biggest issue in South Australia, and that is the current water crisis and the effect it is having on the communities along the Lower Lakes and in Goolwa in my electorate. Many people in the eastern states understand that the water crisis is a major challenge for our country but have little understanding of the actual impact it is having on people particularly in Goolwa, along the Lower Lakes and in the member for Barker’s electorate on the other side. It is destroying businesses; it is destroying lives; it is destroying hope. You only need to travel down the Lower Lakes to see the utter destruction of people’s lives and businesses because of the lack of water flowing down the river. South Australia, of course, has always been at the bottom end of the system. We have always been the place which has highlighted the crisis the most because, of course, we are at the bottom end of the drain, so to speak.

We focus very much in this place, as we should, on the environmental aspect of this crisis, but we often forget the people who are involved and affected. These are people who rely very much on the lakes to go about their business. In Goolwa the major industry is boating and recreational tourism, and without water there is a lack of interest in visiting the area. So there is a real problem along the Lower Lakes, which, of course, also affects irrigators, fishermen and the like. I think it is our obligation, and I wish to use my time this evening, to urge the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change and Water to consider assisting these people, who are losing 95 per cent of their businesses and seeing the great lakes dying in front of them. I genuinely ask the Prime Minister and minister this evening to consider what the opposition has put forward before, which is a financial assistance package to help these people get through a crisis which is engulfing them.

It is a sad time in this area. We all know that a long-term fix needs to be put in place. We all acknowledge that the system is overallocated. The Leader of the Opposition and the former Prime Minister, John Howard, outlined a $10 billion water plan in January 2007. I acknowledge that the current government is largely implementing that plan, with some changes, but they are long-term investments in fixing the system. What I am talking about this evening is providing some short-term assistance to help these people get through while we implement the plans to fix the system in the long term.

But I must say, as an aside to that—and I do not seek to make too many political points in this because it is a genuine issue of helping these people—that the first thing the government should do is scrap the stupid pipeline from the Goulburn Valley to Melbourne. It is one of the most ridiculous decisions that this parliament has ever accepted or that the Australian government has ever been part of to allow nearly 100 gigalitres to be taken out of a system, which is completely overallocated today, in the future—it would be a disgrace. I urge the government to rethink this decision. I urge the government to stop the Victorian government from taking this water out. That 100 gigalitres in the Lower Lakes makes a substantial difference. The Murray-Darling Basin Commission said recently before a Senate committee that all the Lower Lakes need to get through the next 12 months is an extra 30 to 60 gigalitres. To allow an additional 100 gigalitres out of the system through this pipeline would be an utter disgrace. It is a political deal that should be fixed—and it should be fixed today.

I say very genuinely that these people on the Lower Lakes and in Goolwa are suffering under this crisis. I ask the Prime Minister and minister to consider some financial assistance to help them through what is a major environmental crisis—there is no denying it. Until the drought breaks there will not be a long-term solution—there is no question about that. I urge the government to continue with important water reform, but I urge the government to scrap the stupid pipeline and, most importantly, to implement some short-term assistance and real action for these people to help them get through. It is a genuine crisis; there is a genuine need down there to help these small businesses. (Time expired)