Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bills

Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; In Committee

10:55 am

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I have a couple of comments. The first amendment is pretty much identical to an amendment that I will shortly be moving that relates to having at least 450 gigalitres to ensure that there is a minimum amount, but I do have some questions about the prescriptiveness. It is not a criticism of Senator Hanson-Young, but it is a concern about how it will work in a practical sense.

I ask the parliamentary secretary for water, Senator Farrell: what does the government say are the targets for salinity in the lower reaches of the Murray, because of course it is South Australia that is more vulnerable and we know that in the last drought salinity levels were a real issue? For instance, what does it say about targets in respect of salinity in the Lower Lakes? I say, parenthetically, that we still have hypersalinity in the Coorong, which is a real issue, and I will get to that in a moment.

My questions are, in order: firstly, what are the targets of the authority and of the government in relation to salinity in the lower reaches of the Murray, particularly below lock 1 and in the Lower Lakes? Secondly, what steps have been taken to address the issues of hypersalinity in the Coorong? There has been much talk about engineering works and further flushing to reduce the levels of hypersalinity in the Coorong. What steps are being taken in respect of that? Thirdly, if there is a minimum of 450 gigalitres via the mechanisms of this bill, what effect will that have on salinity levels in the lower reaches of the Murray, particularly below lock 1? And what modelling has been done by the government?

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