RUSSELL WOOLF: Senator Simon Birmingham is the Liberal Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and joins us on Drive very shortly. The Swan and Canning Rivers were on the election agenda today and Senator Birmingham, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, was in Perth to announce the Coalition’s commitment to improve our Swan and Canning River. I welcome you. Senator.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good afternoon, Russell, and good afternoon to your listeners.
RUSSELL WOOLF: What are your plans to fix up our Swan?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Russell, it was a delight to be with Steve Irons, the Member for Swan, today, the local Liberal MP, on the Canning River to announce this afternoon that a Coalition Government, a Tony Abbott Government, if elected will provide $1 million over two years to improve the environmental health of the Canning and Swan Rivers, focusing particularly on the Canning River which, of course, is a direct tributary into the Swan, and really working there in terms of practical initiatives that will rehabilitate the area, deal with some of the invasive species and plants and weeds, support revegetation, improve the water quality and, hopefully, really get some good biodiversity back into the region.
RUSSELL WOOLF: Okay, so $1 million over two years and you’re hoping that will lead to weed eradication and take care of some the other significant issues of the Swan and Canning Rivers?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s right, so we’ll be working with local environment groups… today I was there with Steve and the members of the South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare who are already doing some really fantastic work and have done some great work in improving the river bank habitat situation, dealing with weeds, ensuring that we have better plantings, along the area, of native species, which is starting to see a return of birdlife and wildlife but there are many areas that they still need to tackle and we’re hopeful that, by working with the local community groups, by integrating them into some of the Coalition’s Green Army projects as well… that we’ll be able to deliver some really tangible environmental benefits and set up a great biodiversity corridor along the Canning River.
RUSSELL WOOLF: Senator Simon Birmingham is my guest… Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment… and an announcement made today that the Liberal Party, if elected in the federal election on the 7th of September, will give $1 million over two years to improve the environment or the wellbeing of our river system in Perth and I’m joined also by Professor Jörg Imberger from the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia. Professor, you’ve heard from the Senator about today’s announcement. What do you make of it?
JÖRG IMBERGER: Hi, Russell. Hi, Simon. Well, I just wanted to ask a question… whether Simon realises that, for about nine months of the year from Point Walter up to past Guildford, a metre or two below the surface the river is actually dead – there’s no oxygen left at all – and the weeds are actually a very, very minor problem, so two things: does he know about the real problems of the Swan River and, secondly, a million dollars is a sort of a bit of an insult, isn’t it? I mean, you’re going to need considerably more money than that… and I agree with him totally that the Swan River is the icon of Perth but could you just tell me whether… what the $1 million is going to do to the real health of the Swan River?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Jörg, as I indicated to Russell, there’s a real focus, in particular, here on getting the Canning, as one of the tributaries into the Swan, improved. I don’t pretend that this is going to bring the entire Swan up to pristine health but it is going to make a very significant step in the right direction. It’s going to make sure that, on top of some of the work supported by state government/local government authorities, that we can actually really improve the native habitat and get some biodiversity outcomes, yes, indeed, hopefully improve the water quality as well, but we realise there are certainly big problems and we’re committed towards working with long term solutions here and, if elected, I would hope that this would be the first of many commitments to try to improve the health of these local river systems.
JÖRG IMBERGER: Do you realise that the State Government has cut the budget of the Swan River Trust very considerably in the new budget, so, you know, between the State Government’s announcement and your announcement, there’s no hope at all for the river.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Jörg, obviously that’s your opinion there. Certainly, talking to the volunteer groups who are working there at present, they’re achieving some really good outcomes and I believe that, if we give them the right support to keep making improvements there, we will get some serious improvements in time.
JÖRG IMBERGER: Not with a million dollars, Simon. I agree with you that the plants and the fringing vegetation will benefit but… not much… but the health of the river… I mean, it’s dead, basically, and I find it really disappointing that, between the State Government and yourselves, you don’t realise how important this river is and that it needs some… and it’s not an opinion I have; it’s based on four or five years of… or more like ten years of dedicated and very intensive field work, so it’s not an opinion.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Jörg, we obviously want to work with the experts and I think what you’re seeing today is, and my challenge would be, is the Federal Labor Government going to come and make a matching commitment because right now it’s only the Federal Coalition that’s come into this federal campaign and said we will make this million-dollar commitment to the Swan and Canning Rivers. You may not think that it’s enough but this is certainly a step in the right direction and I would hope will improve and deliver some really positive benefits for the local area.
JÖRG IMBERGER: Well, just… could I maybe just invite you guys to come down and I can brief you and we can also arrange for you to meet other people and so forth. It’s a very serious problem and it needs a serious response, not an election response.
RUSSELL WOOLF: Senator Simon Birmingham is my guest. Would you like to go down to the Centre for Water Research at UWA, do you think, and have a meeting with Professor Jörg Imberger?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Very happy next time I’m in town to go and meet with the Professor and talk about some of those deeper and more technical issues that he’s raised in terms of the subsurface issues that the river systems face.
RUSSELL WOOLF: So nice to talk to you, Senator Simon Birmingham.