TREVOR SCOTT: … yesterday a little headline in The Advertiser grabbed my attention – “New tax hits footy clubs” – which… I went ‘hang on, what’s this all about?’ “SANFL clubs may be forced to cut back their community programs because of rising electricity costs.” Now, also yesterday, an email came to me from Senator Simon Birmingham – “Carbon tax threatens SA footy community programs” – and I thought ‘this is all linked together, what is going on?’ Let’s find out a little more about it. The Senator joins me now. Good morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Trevor. Good morning to your listeners.
TREVOR SCOTT: Look, thanks for taking time out to chat to us. I’m a little bit close to this being, and I’ll declare that I am, on the Commission for the Riverland Football League and we do have close associations with the West Adelaide Football Club here in this region. They do a lot of work in our area in supporting and helping young people and our local clubs with lots of training and community support so they’re saying that that could be, well, reduced because of the extra costs?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Yeah, Trevor, one of the reasons that footy’s been so successful as a code over the last few years is that right down, from the AFL [Australian Football League] through the SANFL [South Australian National Football League] through into local clubs, there’s a real appreciation of the need to promote the development of the game and make sure that we actually encourage and foster young players, schoolchildren, to be interested and bring them up, of course, through the ranks and provide the type of professional development and support that gives us such a great competition nowadays and unfortunately what was exposed yesterday is that the carbon tax is applying huge additional cost pressures on footy clubs at all levels but, of course, those with bigger operations face bigger bills and that is probably just going to mean less money for game development and player development and these sorts of community engagement programs.
TREVOR SCOTT: When you look at some of the proposed changes to this, the rises of electricity costs – $30- to $40,000 has been quoted here by Central District; $150,000 up to $200,000 a year… more for North Adelaide – these are outstandingly unacceptable rises, aren’t they? And is it all due to the carbon tax or are there other costs involved there as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Trevor, it’s not all entirely due to the carbon tax but the carbon tax is a significant component of electricity price rises across South Australia and right around Australia and, of course, it is the component that has been applied by the Federal Government, against a promise that Julia Gillard took to the last election not to have a carbon tax. There are other factors driving up electricity prices which relate more to the cost of distribution and transmission and so on which you would accept as genuine issues in the electricity generation sector, although everything should be done to try to minimise and reduce those, but the carbon tax is, in many ways, the optional extra put on top of electricity bills and unfortunately in this case it’s an optional extra hitting everyone including footy clubs with these bills and, as the chief executive of the West Adelaide footy club – the Bloods – said yesterday, “it’s $32,000 less that we’ll be able to spend on our football department next year” and, for a club like Westies, for any of them, those $30- to $50,000 bills… is, of course, a big whack and it makes… I’m sure will make them reconsider things like their night games and night training sessions and so on where, of course, running the lights on the ovals and so forth is now a more expensive proposition.
TREVOR SCOTT: It’s just going to be interesting to see other clubs and other sports, when they get their bills, how they are going to be able to react to this and how they’re going to be able to cope with this extra cost as well so it’s something we’ll keep our ear to the ground on. Just very quickly, Simon, can I ask you about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan? How are we progressing there in getting a little better flows and a little more even outcome for South Australia?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it continues to be a slow, slow process, Trevor, although I am expecting and hoping that the Federal Water Minister, Tony Burke, will present a final Plan to the Parliament very, very soon and I am pleased to see today that the Federal Labor Government has slapped down Jay Weatherill and the State Labor Government. There’s a story in The Australian newspaper today where Tony Burke and Penny Wong have both said that Jay Weatherill’s approach of calling for 4000 gigalitres really is irresponsible, it threatens getting any type of outcome and certainly doesn’t help to achieve a fair outcome for regions like the Riverland so I am pleased to see that at long last Federal Labor is standing up to State Labor on this issue.
TREVOR SCOTT: Well, let’s just hope we get a… something equal across the board for the Basin because we need to keep our river alive and we all know that rivers die from the mouth up.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely, Trevor. We need to get an outcome for this and that’s what’s really important – that we get a sustainable outcome for the Murray and for the communities who rely on it.
TREVOR SCOTT: Mr Birmingham, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time this morning and we’ll see you next time round.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Always a pleasure, mate.
TREVOR SCOTT: Thanks, buddy. Simon Birmingham there – Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray-Darling Basin and also the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Senator for South Australia.