MATTHEW PANTELIS: Big day on the River Murray, Keith – of course, 3200 more gigs [gigalitres].
KEITH CONLON: Yeah, Prime Minister about to announce it on the Lower Lakes but of course it’s got to get through Federal Parliament. For a look at the Opposition stance on it, Senator Simon Birmingham – of course, a Senator from South Australia’s been watching the River for the Party. Good morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Keith, good morning, guys, and good morning to your listeners.
KEITH CONLON: Is this a significant step or is there going to be one step backwards after this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Keith, the devil, as always, will be in the detail. In a sense, we’ve been down this road before. I remember during the 2010 election waking up one morning and seeing a full front page of The Advertiser with a blaring headline of ‘River Queen’ that told us then that the Prime Minister was going to implement whatever the Murray-Darling Basin Authority recommended and buy back all of the water needed. Since then, of course, we’ve seen it bogged down in politics and other squabbles. I hope today that we get a detailed announcement about how much water, where and how it will be used, where it will come from, how much money, where the money’s coming from. That detail’s lacking in The ‘Tiser story at present but I hope to see it today.
KEITH CONLON: We were told by one of the key Independents that anything over 3000 gigs wouldn’t get through the Federal Parliament. What’s your reading?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh, look, the Coalition started this process. It was John Howard in 2007 who said we need to end the bickering between the states and have a national plan to manage the Murray-Darling. We want to see it finished. We want to make sure we get a good Plan in place so we’re not sticking to any arbitrary figures of what we’ll vote for or what we’ll vote against. We welcome this if, indeed, there’s sufficient detail to back it up and we actually can see something that will benefit the Murray and give it the security and the communities of the Murray the security they need in the future.
MATTHEW PANTELIS: So, Simon, you’re saying the Liberal Party will support it? If it’s all agreed – you don’t care about the amount?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Matthew, it’s got to, obviously, tick the boxes of the detail. We’re not going to sign off on a newspaper headline – we’ll sign off on the detailed plan – but we do welcome, cautiously, what appears to be being announced. It looks like the Prime Minister’s going to announce something that involves more water flowing through the system but recovered in the way we envisaged in the first place which is prioritising water saving infrastructure projects rather than just buying it back, because you need to make sure you get this water in a way that is sympathetic to those local irrigation communities rather than destructive to them.
KEITH CONLON: Thanks very much, Senator Simon Birmingham.