LEON BYNER: … moving to water, because what is interesting is that, as you know, some months ago we had a nasty drought and then Mother Nature gave us a wonderful reprieve but a key parliamentary inquiry into the River Murray [House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia] is likely to recommend there is no need for big cuts to upstream water entitlements because the system is returning to good health. Now, you will remember that the base of this problem goes back a long way to what was called over-allocation.
LEON BYNER: … I have Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham on the line. Simon, good morning. What would you like to add to this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Leon. Look, I’m pleased to hear Tony [Burke] talk about what he needs and thinks needs to happen in regards to the planning process. I’d be very concerned if we saw a report that didn’t recommend some further water be returned to the system but it’s all about how it’s returned and unfortunately we’ve had years of wasted opportunity in terms of Mike Rann playing politics with other states in High Court challenges, the Rudd and Gillard Governments reprioritising water buybacks ahead of water saving infrastructure projects, efficiency programs, things that can provide for ‘win win’ outcomes. We really need to get this back on track and get it back on track by having a real plan, not just of how much water needs to be saved but of how we go about saving that water…
LEON BYNER:  Alright…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … and by doing that we can actually get irrigators on board, communities on board and get an outcome for the river system that’s healthy and sustainable.
LEON BYNER:  I’m going to put a question to you both and as I’ve got you, Simon, I’ll ask you first. Are you comfortable with the concept that international buyers can come in, purchase water off us, sit on it and wait for it to appreciate. Do you think that’s good for South Australia, good for our country, yes or no?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon, if that’s what happens on a large scale than no, I don’t think that’s good for South Australia or our country and I think we need to look at it. Now, we need to check and see whether there’s evidence that that is really happening and…
LEON BYNER:  Well, I can assure you I wouldn’t be asking you the question if I didn’t have evidence and if I’ve got it, you should be able to get it as a Member of Parliament.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Leon, I think we need utter transparency in regards to water trading. We need some better market rules that knock out some of the difficulties for effective trading between the states and we need to make sure that we have transparency of who owns the water, how it’s used, and indeed if we see a situation where there is a… pardon the pun… a bottling up of water by interests that are not pursuing it in Australia’s national interest then that’s something we need to look at acting on.
LEON BYNER:  Tony Burke, thank you, and also thank you to Simon Birmingham.