(Presenter: … the announcement a couple of … weeks ago … from the Federal Government about the impact on flooding of the Lower Lakes and it was Federal Minister Garrett … is gonna prepare a report, which is gonna take a year I think to see if they should be flooded or not … there’s some controversy about who’s doing the report … Senator Simon Birmingham released a media release today about the fact that it should be an independent report … you’re a little bit concerned about the report that is going to be made on the lakes area that’s not going to be as independent as you would wish. Why have you got concerns about it?) It’s a complex issue … to put it as simply as possible, your listeners and you would recall that the State Government, the South Australian Government, the Rann Government, made application for approval for admitting seawater into the Lower Lakes … it’s up to the Federal Government to decide whether or not that is … firstly a controlled action under Federal Environmental Law, and then if it is a controlled action, whether or not it should be allowed to proceed … Peter Garrett’s made the first step of that decision and said yes, it is a controlled action under Environmental Law and therefore he requires an environmental impact statement … to be conducted … at present that environmental impact statement will be undertaken by the South Australian Government. This is where the confusing thing or the concerning thing kicks in. The South Australian Government is of course the applicant and the proponent as saying we might want to admit seawater to these lakes. They’ve now also been asked to be the assessor. It’s not unusual for State Governments to do the assessment for these things, but usually of course the proponent is a private company or some type of developer. That’s why I’ve taken the step of writing to Peter Garrett urging him to, in the terms of reference for the development of the environmental impact statement … make the requirement that the South Australian Government have some independent expert oversight in developing that EIS. That’s the only way that South Australians can have faith that it isn’t just developed to meet a predetermined end, and that’s why I think Peter Garrett needs to make sure that there is some use of the great expertise that is out there to ensure that South Australians can have confidence in this whole process. (Presenter: … if it rained and we had good flows … down the Murray and the Darling system the need would probably never arise for that decision to ever be made. Is that correct?) … that’s certainly the outcome that we all hope for. We all hope for more rain, more water and a freshwater solution to the Lower Lakes. (Presenter: … we’ve been asked, and legislated, to cut our water usage in our gardens and our homes dramatically. Industry has been left off the hook, horticultural areas have had reallocations of water … the amount they can take out of the Murray, what about if industry and/or the horticultural industry, particularly along the River Murray area … were all of a sudden by law had to reduce their licenses by 30%, or their usages by 30%, would not that fix the problem?) It wouldn’t entirely … the horticultural areas along the Murray, many of them have had to reduce their water entitlement or water usage by much more than 30% over the last few very dry seasons … whilst you’re right to say that industry in some ways has been let off the hook and there probably is a lot more that could be done in water saving there, for the big users of River Murray water ,which are those irrigation districts in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, they’ve had their allocations cut quite dramatically, quite severely and very much to the detriment of their livelihoods for a number of years now. It varies from State to State, and we can certainly have arguments as to whether some States are being a little too generous this year or not … you’ve gotta recognise there’s a lot of pain existing across the board there … because State Governments have stuffed it up, to be frank. They’ve allocated way too much water for way too long. The long term process has got to be putting in place more efficient infrastructure to make sure that water is used more efficiently and that you can generate savings there, and the Rudd Government is seriously dragging its heels on that. They are proceeding with water buybacks, but the problem with buybacks … a dry environment is that you’re buying back licenses that aren’t worth very much. (Presenter: … that’s right … they’re not actually buying active licenses back are they?) No, if you’ve got licenses where the water licensee is only getting 5% of your allocation … you’re only buying 5% of the license effectively for the short term. In the long term it’ll make some difference … (Presenter: … it’s a bit of chest beating there … that we’re doing this buyback, but really they haven’t bought back water as such …) … that’s right … one of my concerns is that we’ve got the development of some pipelines going into those Lower Lakes communities to provide them with some water security, that’s fantastic and that’s welcome for those communities so that they will get water out of the River Murray system rather than off of the Lower Lakes, but that development’s been able to be fast tracked, funding committed, building works started and the building will be completed sometimes this year. Done very quickly, yet we have opportunities to reengineer the Menindee Lakes in New South Wales, to reengineer New South Wales irrigation supplies and so on that could save hundreds of gigalitres of water and they’re going to take years of assessment. Why is it that the Rudd Government and the State Government here can manage to commit to build so quickly pipelines in South Australia that are important to those communities, but don’t actually save any water, but they can’t manage to commit to infrastructure projects interstate that will actually save water that could flow down the river … I urge Peter Garrett to give South Australians the confidence that their environmental impact statement will be developed independently, free of the Rann Government so that we have faith that it is a true assessment of what impact admitting seawater would have. (Presenter: … thank you.)