SONYA FELDHOFF: Simon, the issue of the Plan, we have seen no commitment from the Liberals at this stage to what they will do to save the Murray.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Sonya, we started the process of reforming the Murray Darling Basin and putting it on a national footing, with a national plan and national management back in 2007. We’re disappointed that since we lost that election, Labor has lost its way and failed to meet the types of targets and deadlines that have been set including in releasing the Basin Plan which was due out some months ago and should have been out months ago but for the fact that it took Penny Wong 18 months to establish the chair and members of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. But we are committed to the process we started in 2007. If elected, we will get on with the job and finish it. We want to see the Basin Plan implemented but we’re not into signing blank cheques, Sonya. We will support a good Basin Plan, not a bad Basin Plan, and to know the difference we need to see it, unlike the Government who seem to be willing and desperate to sign up to absolutely anything.
SONYA FELDHOFF: Simon Birmingham, does that mean that you don’t have confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority that they have the river’s best interests at heart?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the process…
SONYA FELDHOFF: If you assume that there’s the possibility of a bad Plan?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well the process was put in place, Sonya, to have a proper consultation period around the Basin Plan. A draft will be released shortly, we hope. Certainly if we are elected, Tony Abbott made the commitment in his … in the biggest speech of his campaign on Sunday at his campaign launch he committed that the Plan would be released within a month of the election of an Abbott Government. We will make sure that it goes out for proper consultation and that the Plan that is finally approved is a good one in the best interests of getting a healthy river system, fixing the Lower Lakes, but also making sure that the transitions outlined in the Plan are good for our food producers and the people up in the Riverland and elsewhere who should not be forgotten in this process as being important to achieving an outcome that’s good for all of South Australia and all of the river system.
SONYA FELDHOFF: So, Simon Birmingham, the commitment from the Coalition, without being specific, what is it, if we’re not going to hear anything about it without the Plan being released?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we will nonetheless release a far more detailed policy than the Labor party has. All we got from them today were two media releases. There’s no policy document from Labor whatsoever. Tony Abbott will personally release the policy document that he has personally been involved in writing, with myself and Barnaby Joyce and others, and that will be released very, very soon but I can assure you it will outline our commitment to achieving national management, to how we would go about implementing the Basin Plan and to ensuring that there is some real action for the Murray Darling system, not beyond 2014 as Julia Gillard was talking about today which is not only after this election but after the next election, but commitments and some action for the next three years.
SONYA FELDHOFF: So, trust us?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, you will see it very, very, very soon, I trust you, very soon.
SONYA FELDHOFF: Senator Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time.