LEON BYNER: Now, the River Murray is an important issue for us. Thank goodness nature is giving us a few gifts at the moment. There’s even the possibility of flooding but the State Government has turned down the chance for senior staff to be involved in drafting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Now, the chairman of the MDBA [Murray-Darling Basin Authority], Craig Knowles, issued the first invitation last June with Paul Caica [SA Minister for Water and the River Murray]. Paul wrote back declining the offer of embedding a State Government staff member with the Authority. Now, I’ve got to say this – that we’re not the only state to say no. All the states have said no, but what I find interesting is a quote suggesting – from Mr Knowles, who wrote to Paul Caica – that the Minister rejected the offer, saying despite the fact that the Murray-Darling Basin Association [Authority] would meet the cost of the secondment, the Minister couldn’t spare the staff.
LEON BYNER: Simon Birmingham, Minister Caica says – you’ve just heard it – that it really wouldn’t have made any difference and you’re saying we should have gone in there, even though the other states didn’t?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, good morning, Leon and listeners. I think it’s a fairly simple equation here and that is that South Australia has the most to gain from getting this Plan right and that we should seek to be involved at every single opportunity available to us. This isn’t a case of a situation where you can provide expert evidence and data or you can have staff embedded. We could have done both and we should have done both and that’s really the very simple equation here, that this Government has been one of the loudest critics of the draft Plan that has come out and yet we now discover they didn’t take the opportunity to send a couple of public servants over to Canberra at Canberra’s expense and have them at least embedded in the process and having the opportunity to try to influence every step of the way. It may or may not have made any difference – we’ll never know that, though, because, of course, the State Government never tried it.