TREVOR SCOTT: Chris de Burgh with that advice that he’s been giving to viewers for a long time Don’t Pay the Ferryman. We heard earlier River of Dreams from Billy Joel and it’s a bit of a water theme, really, isn’t it, as we get a little bit closer to the 9 o’clock news. Why’s that? Well, Senator Simon Birmingham has retained his representation of the Murray-Darling and our environment, the water, that sort of thing. Let’s get the details from the man himself. Senator Simon Birmingham joins me. Good morning, Senator.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Trevor. Good morning to your listeners.
TREVOR SCOTT: Firstly, I should say congratulations. You’ve been able to retain that representation that you were hoping for.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, thank you. It’s a delight to have responsibilities for the water and Murray-Darling issues in particular as well as some environment matters more broadly in the new Government and, whilst it’s nice to retain the responsibilities, it’s more important that I now get to hold them in government and be less talk and more action from hereon in.
TREVOR SCOTT: Already copping a bit of flak from the other side saying that it should be somebody sitting down in the other House on the front bench that should be doing it. What’s your response to that?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we’ve got the right balance there. We’ll have Greg Hunt giving a strong voice as the Minister for the Environment and Barnaby Joyce as the Minister for Agriculture but obviously I have spent pretty much the 6½ years or so I’ve been in the Senate focusing on water policies and making that a real area of interest and I can assure your listeners that, when need be, I’ll be able to pick the phone up to the Prime Minister or anybody else in the Government and say we need to work on these issues because they’re so very important to the health of our rivers, to the productive capacity of our agricultural regions and to ensuring that we continue to successfully grow food here in Australia by Australians for Australians and for export to the rest of the world.
TREVOR SCOTT: There is already some information coming out of Queensland that they want to change the way they handle their end of the Murray-Darling Basin. Are you across that and what can be done?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I’ll be getting briefings on all of those matters. I think what’s important, firstly, is that we have an agreed Basin Plan that was settled in the last Parliament that is based on the legislation passed back in the Howard Government years. That needs to be implemented and be successfully implemented. I’ll work with the states to go through how we’re going to get that implementation done in a way that protects their farming communities and ensures their productive capacity’s maintained. There are some other issues around the management of other river systems in Queensland that I see are being talked about and I look forward to getting some briefings from the department and talking to the Queensland Government about what their intentions are and obviously we want to get the balance right. We’ve got to make sure downstream interests are protected and that you don’t hurt the environment but I also want to see development and growth of farms where possible, as long as it can be done in a sustainable way.
TREVOR SCOTT: Yeah, it sounds like it’s just going to be another big fight, I should say, Senator Birmingham. Lots and lots to talk about… I’ve run out of time but I just wanted to, well, be one of the first to talk to you and get your feelings on it. We will see a community forum in the near future and hopefully Barnaby Joyce will travel with you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh, look, we’ll definitely be getting out to the regions and I’m looking forward to getting up and down the Murray-Darling system and some of Australia’s other key water assets because I know that hearing firsthand from the communities is the best way to get the real feedback of what’s happening.
TREVOR SCOTT: Excellent. We’ll talk to you in the very near future, Mr Birmingham. Thank you for your time.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, mate, any time.
TREVOR SCOTT: Senator Simon Birmingham, there, retains his responsibilities, this time in government, for the Murray-Darling Basin and I’m sure that he will keep at the forefront the thoughts of South Australia and water as part of the major food bowl.