MICHAEL SMYTH: … the Libs were firmly focused on the Torrens, pledging more money to help clean it up. Joining us now is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Simon Birmingham. Senator, welcome.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good afternoon, Michael. Good afternoon to your listeners.
MICHAEL SMYTH: First of all, have you recovered from the bus ride with Matt and Dave this morning?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I might be in therapy for a little while after that one but it was all good fun.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Did you eat all your Tiny Teddys?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, look, the Tiny Teddys, I have to say, I brought home for my two-year-old and she’s not aware that they’re home yet but they’ll be very popular tomorrow.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Good to hear! Now, two… sorry, a million dollars over two years to help clean up the Torrens… the state Water minister, Ian Hunter, has already responded to this today, suggesting that we should feel short-changed, that the State Government already spends double that a year on the Torrens. Is he right?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Michael, I’m not seeing the federal Labor Party putting any money forward towards a River Torrens clean-up…
MICHAEL SMYTH: Are you still with us? I think we may have lost Senator Simon Birmingham. We’ll try and get him back on the line. Are you still there? It looks like a bit of a dodgy phone line.
MICHAEL SMYTH: We’re still trying to get Senator Simon Birmingham back on the line to explain how this money would be spent but, in the meantime, we can have a chat to independent environmental consultant Anne Jensen.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Now, what do you make of this commitment, as far as you know, that the Libs have made in terms of spending extra money on the Torrens?
ANNE JENSEN: Well, it’s always welcome to have attention on specific environmental problems but it also highlights another problem that so often we have an ad hoc announcement of, in this case, a million dollars over two years to improve water quality. There are programs that have been running for a long time to try to address this problem. It’s a very large problem. It’s going to take a lot of money, a lot of time, to solve it. It would be better if we had larger amounts of money pledged in the longer term, rather than these one-off gifts of money.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Back to Senator Simon Birmingham… I think the line’s working now. Hello again, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It is, indeed, Michael… very sorry about that.
MICHAEL SMYTH: What about that frustration that Anne Jensen was mentioning that we get sort of piecemeal approaches to these sort of things and it’s long-term funding that’s really needed?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Michael, I think this should be viewed as a boost or a super-charge to existing efforts. Obviously, the Torrens and its health is primarily a responsibility for state and local government. It’s not something the Federal Government usually gets involved in but we recognise, as part of the Liberal Party’s overall ‘clean waters, clean rivers, clean seas’ policy within our Environment portfolio, that it’s important for our capital city rivers to get a real boost and a real lift and so what we’re doing here is providing $1 million over two years which will hopefully boost and super-charge the existing efforts of the State Government, local governments, catchment management authorities and others to reduce those nutrient inflows, to reduce the risk of algal bloom outbreaks, to ensure we have cleaner water flowing out of the Torrens Outlet on to our beaches and, ultimately, every little bit has to help and we believe that this is at least a good contribution and, if there’s demand and need forward into the future, then I’d be very happy to sit down with the stakeholders and have a talk about that.
MICHAEL SMYTH: So, it’s something that you may revisit? Because obviously there’s going to be a major focus on the whole riverbank redevelopment over the next 10 or 20 years… hundreds of millions being spent on new infrastructure and buildings along there, so in the scheme of things 500,000 [dollars] a year doesn’t seem like a lot of money.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we all hope very much that the Torrens becomes the heart of an even more thriving and bustling city precinct and obviously good business policies, good economic policies like those we’re taking to this election will be essential to get small business ticking over again. We want to see a clean river for people to enjoy, be it local businesses, tourists or those who simply go for a jog around the Torrens Lake and we’re committed to, as I say, providing this boost, this super-charge, to existing efforts and I think it’s a significant commitment $1 million to really ensure that we get more done, more to reduce nutrient inflows, more to reduce riverbank erosion and soil destabilisation around the River and more to clean it up and to ensure that the River is cleaner, the waters in it are cleaner, the Lake’s cleaner and, importantly, it flows right through to the beaches there around West Beach and Henley Beach.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Senator Simon Birmingham, thank you for joining us on Drive. We hope your daughter enjoys the Tony Teddys from Breakfast.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’m sure she will. Thanks so much, Michael.
MICHAEL SMYTH: Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham.