LEON BYNER: We’ve started today talking about what’s happening across the border in terms of money being spent on water because one of the things that South Australia has been very good at is very efficient uses of water and that’s all been done generally at growers’ own expense but in Victoria, for example, they’re getting a lot of taxpayers’ money to get to the point where we are, where we didn’t get any compensation, so Professor Mike Young says ‘look, this is not the way to go; we ought to be buying water and making sure that that is used well rather than going in the indirect way.’
Well, let’s talk to Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham. Simon, what do you want to say on this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Leon, and good morning to your listeners. Look, it’s interesting that you’re talking about this topic today because literally just yesterday I wrote to the Auditor-General asking him to take a close look at some of these water infrastructure deals being signed by the Commonwealth Government and I did so because in Senate Estimates this week we heard some evidence that concerned me about the way these deals are being struck and whether, in fact, they’re even achieving the aim of getting water back into the Murray-Darling system and, in particular, we heard about the Menindee Lakes deal and you would, of course, Leon we’ve spoken about Menindee Lakes many times before know that big, leaky lake system in New South Wales that has the potential to return 200 billion litres of water to the river system. Julia Gillard during the election campaign announced that she’d signed a deal with the New South Wales Government to actually get that reform underway, and there was a little sweetener in there $20 million to build a pipeline to Orange from the Macquarie River in New South Wales.
Well, guess what’s happened since then, Leon? New South Wales has walked away from the deal. They’ve torn up the deal on Menindee Lakes but the Commonwealth is still paying the $20 million for the Orange pipeline out of Murray-Darling water savings funds, so we are seeing all sorts of very foolish, stupid deals being done, it seems, that aren’t returning the water to the river system that was promised. Now, that needs to be the primary goal to actually still get this Basin Plan in place and it’s four years now since the Water Act was passed and unfortunately getting a well managed, effective Plan in place that’s efficiently delivered is looking further and further away.
LEON BYNER: Yeah. Simon, thanks for calling in…