Topics: Murray-Darling Basin Plan
David Bevan: Let’s finish this for the moment with the most senior Liberal in the state and one of the most senior in the country, Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator and Finance Minister. Good morning, Simon Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, David, Ali and listeners.
David Bevan: Well, how angry are you?
Simon Birmingham: I’m not angry, David. It’s not my style. I’m determined as you heard Tony and James and David Speirs to simply get on with the job. And the job is to ensure the Murray-Darling Basin Plan continues to be implemented.
David Bevan: So was this just a bit of mischief making? Were they just trying it on. It plays well to their electorate, but it doesn’t really mean much. So just move on?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t think there was an expectation that they were going to win. And so people can interpret that however they wish. The fact is, they’re representing concerns that exist in their electorates. South Australian Liberals are standing up for our electorates. Now, what we’re standing up for, though, is a plan that is very balanced, that does require the cooperation across all of the different Murray-Darling Basin jurisdictions, which is why it’s difficult and challenging. But it’s also a plan that is incredibly well advanced-
David Bevan: Is there any chance that Bridget McKenzie, who led this charge, will end up being the water minister?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I don’t think that’s likely, but that’s a matter for the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to talk through. We made clear in the letter that all the South Australian Liberals signed yesterday that we’ve appreciated working with Keith Pitt in the way in which he’s engaged with Basin communities, as we did with David Littleproud before him.
David Bevan: Do you think Bridget McKenzie has her ideas about the Lower Lakes are voodoo economics? That’s how David Speirs, your state counterpart, described it?
Simon Birmingham: I was in meetings and didn’t hear that colourful description. I’ve worked with Bridget a long period of time. Clearly, we have a difference of opinion on this issue. Our position isn’t going to change, and nor is the government’s position when it comes to getting the plan implemented. It’s why some 2800 billion litres of water entitlements are now held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holdings. 2800 billion litres of water entitlements that are allocated to environmental assets, the lower lakes, the Coorong, but also assets Ramsar listed wetlands not just in South Australia, but sites in Victoria, sites in New South Wales. The important thing for all jurisdictions to understand is the Basin Plan delivers support for the environmental management of the river right across the whole country, not just in one state, but also the important thing for us all to be mindful of is river communities, farming communities who grow food for our country and produce fibre for our country. Also want to know that we understand their concerns and as South Australians we always need to be mindful of that. Everyone needs a sustainable river. They’ve got to be managed in a way that keeps it environmentally sustainable, but also productive for those communities.
Ali Clarke: Liberal Senator, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, thank you.