LEON BYNER: …lets talk about water, there’s been enormous flooding in Queensland and New South Wales … obviously these waters flow and because we’re such a distance from Queensland and New South Wales, it takes time and there’s a lot evaporation and seepage and so on, but of course we have a State election going on at the moment and so everybody is trying to claim credit for things they didn’t do and avoid things they did if they’re controversial, that’s just what happens in campaigns, but let’s find out about the water situation and what we actually might get… let’s first of all talk to Coalition Senator Simon Birmingham… Simon, what is your understanding about all this floodwater and I know that you’ve written a letter to Penny Wong, what are you looking for?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Leon and listeners. Leon, this is the second flood event of course that’s occurred in the northern reaches of the Darling River this year … we saw one late last year, early this year in December/January and another one over the last couple of weeks that has particularly happened in southern Queensland. Data that I have from the Bureau of Meteorology estimates that by the end of this second flood event, the one in southern Queensland, some 6,215 gigalitres of runoff will have occurred … that’s more than 6 trillion litres of water, which is just mind boggling to anyone… as you said in the introduction, a lot of that will be lost to evaporation, to other storages up there in Queensland and in the north of the Basin, but an awful lot of it is quite clearly going to make its way down the Darling. Now, I wrote to Penny Wong yesterday having seen documents put out by the New South Wales Office of Water that made it clear that they were planning to fill all four of the lakes in the Menindee Lakes system. They’ve been flagging that had there been a second flood event, that was their intention… that’s been on their website in documents for the last couple of months and they released a new briefing yesterday to that effect, so I wrote to Penny asking whether the Murray-Darling Basin (Authority), the independent expert national body that doesn’t have control over the system yet, whether it agrees with those decisions, whether of course if management of the Menindee Lakes system goes over to the MDBA, as it will when the Menindee Lakes reach 640 gigalitres, whether they would follow through on those and a range of other questions about how much would be lost due to seepage and the failure of the Rudd Government to actually follow through on its promise to re-engineer the Menindee Lakes … so I’ve posed a lot of questions to Minister Wong… obviously since then we have had Premier Rann’s claims overnight that he has struck some sort of deal… now, I understand that Isobel Redmond has released advice from the Chief Executive of the Premier’s Department of Premier and Cabinet this morning that no deal has actually been done and indeed if we’re looking at the flows of water and the quantum of water that we’re talking about, it becomes very evident that you can fill up the Menindee Lakes system, you can fill up Lake Victoria … there will probably still be plenty of water left over that naturally is just going to have to flow in to South Australia and that’s fantastic news … great news for the Lower Lakes, great news for irrigators … but it is Mother Nature who has delivered this water, not Mike Rann.