JOHN KENNEALLY:  We’re going to be talking about the Murray – there’s more science for the Murray about to be released by the South Australian Government today, Keith.
KEITH CONLON: Yeah, and meanwhile Federal Senator, Liberal Senator, Simon Birmingham… he, through Freedom of Information [legislation], has got hold of some of the work that’s been done by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority itself. Remember, they basically got into strife by putting out a report that said a lot of water is needed for the environment and it was suggested that not enough of the socio-economic effects of taking that water out of communities had been taken into account. What’s up? We’ll try to get hold of him in a minute.
KEITH CONLON: We’ve found him. Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham… Good morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Keith, John and listeners.
KEITH CONLON: Well, it’s a very important issue – how much water is going to come down, how much for the environment, how much for irrigators… through Freedom of Information, what do you reckon you’ve found?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Keith, look, what I’ve got from Freedom of Information documents we’ve obtained from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is analysis by their own natural resource manager that shows the very controversial Guide to the [proposed] Murray-Darling Basin Plan released late last year was in fact based on the weakest of all the analytical methods they could have applied and what obviously we have to hope for now is that, having identified that and seen that it had serious flaws in it, that the new Plan which we expect to be released within days or weeks is robust in all of its evidence because everyone from irrigators to, of course, all of the key environmental assets in the Basin deserve a good national Plan which is something that has been so many years or decades in the making.
KEITH CONLON: There’s a suggestion in a report in The Australian today that this new work, however, doesn’t include enough on the [Lower] Lakes and the Coorong, the demands for that. Have you looked at that?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, this was a document that was provided to the Board of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority some months ago and hopefully obviously since then they will have done the work but it’s something that I’ll be looking at very, very closely. We need a Plan that provides for the entire Basin and that of course means that we need to flush water out of the Mouth, flush all of the salt and pollutants down the River through those Lakes, through to the Mouth, on a more regular basis than has occurred in the past.  It’s a matter of getting the balance right. Irrigators in the Riverland and those upstream in other states deserve their fair share. We want to have a strong food producing industry as well but we need a Plan that works to preserve all of those key environmental assets, the wetlands throughout the Basin and, particularly for SA, those around the Coorong and Lower Lakes.
KEITH CONLON: We understand that the South Australian Government will also be putting out some new science, so to speak – some new material. Have you heard anything about it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh, look, I’ve seen some of the work the SA Government has done, reported on, previously and obviously everyone is making sure they have their best arguments pitched for when this new draft Plan is released. What’s important, though, is that it’s all done on robust science and available evidence and what we now know is the very controversial Guide released late last year was based on weak science in terms of the analytical method applied, was based on also weak economic data – they conceded that at the time – so this time around we want to make sure that the Government has done all of the work properly, that they actually have fair dinkum analysis of the science, that the key assets are assessed for just how much water they need to survive appropriately into the future and all of the economic and social data is strong so that we know we can have communities on the River that thrive and keep growing and producing food for us all to enjoy.
KEITH CONLON: Just finally, when do you expect the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s new report to come out?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Keith, look, I’m expecting it in the next week or two. I’m obviously not the Government and don’t know exactly when they plan to release it but all of my sources suggest that it could be as early as early next week.
KEITH CONLON: Thanks very much, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, from South Australia, on what sounds like is about to hit us again – another look at the Murray-Darling Basin, from an irrigator’s point of view and from an environmental point of view. Tricky to get it right!