Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Water Legislation Amendment (Inspector-General of Water Compliance and Other Measures) Bill 2021; Second Reading
It is absolutely clear that Labor and the Greens—and Rex Patrick, but he has always been honest about his position, so I applaud Rex Patrick—who sit there and purport to represent Australia are focused on only one state when it comes to water: the state of South Australia. We are not about stealing water from South Australia. We are not about stealing water from South Australian farmers, who I applaud. The farmers of the Renmark Irrigation Trust, the farmers of the Berri Irrigation Trust, the South Australian Murray Irrigators—I support all of them. That is why we have flagged amendments to legislate the social and economic test applied to the 450 gigalitres by all basin ministers, including the South Australian minister. The South Australian minister agreed to that because the impact on those very South Australian irrigation communities that I've just mentioned would be horrific if all of a sudden they woke up and a big chequebook was being waved under their noses supposedly in the name of their environment. When we are talking about the Basin Plan, apparently it's only the South Australian environment that matters, and not even the South Australian environment across the state. Only one environmental icon site do the Greens care about. Only one does the Labor Party care about. Well, I care about the Narran Lakes. I care about the forests. I care about the Chowilla floodplain. I care about the environmental sites within the Renmark Irrigation Trust. That company did a great deal with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to ensure that you can get water to them and that the water doesn't just flow past their gates and out to sea at the expense of the environment throughout the rest of the basin.
Senator Wong was absolutely right when she said she purchased 1,000 gigalitres of water. I remind people when that happened. She purchased 1,000 gigalitres of water in the middle of the millennium drought, when people were desperate, before we had a Basin Plan and before there was any indication of where the water needed to be used or where the water should come from. She purchased that water at a time when farmers were on their knees looking for help. She came to help them alright, with a massive chequebook. She closed the cotton gin at Bourke, sending hundreds of people into unemployment queues. Yes, the farmers got their money for the water, but nothing was done for the communities where those farmers supported local businesses.
Senator Wong and Senator Hanson-Young say that we're doing this today because of Barnaby Joyce, because of our new leader.