Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:11): We have heard lots of words today about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. We asked the minister to make a commitment today in terms of words that were spoken by Senator Ruston-and I really do admire the commitment that Senator Ruston has brought to the discussion here, asking for people to work on the plan. It is very important that people work on the plan and remember that it was actually a plan that was developed by the Labor Party. This plan was to make a healthy and sustainable basin.

At that stage, it was cross-party-it was absolutely cross-party. One thing that we have heard a lot of today is about how committed everyone is. If I had had the time to count the number of times the word 'committed' was used in the process today it would have come to a very large number. But we have had confusion. Again, there seems to be confusion and some disagreement about how exactly that commitment is going to operate.

When we asked Minister Canavan to actually respond to a question from Senator Gallacher about whether exactly it was the Deputy Prime Minister's words or Senator Ruston's words which said how this plan was going to operate, it was very hard to hear anything in that answer except 'commitment'. There was no detail; there was no knowledge about exactly how the plan was go to operate. But we do know, and we can hold it to our hearts, that there is commitment. We need more than that. South Australia needs more than that. South Australia has been asking for so long to have a clear understanding of exactly how this plan will work to benefit South Australians.

I spoke with the Queensland minister on this issue over the weekend, and his concern, again, was to ensure that an agreement was actually established with all the states that were going to be involved in this process. He did not feel that that particular agreement was actually being supported by the Deputy Prime Minister. His understanding was that there was a sense of agreement, that there was an understanding of what was going to happen. The Deputy Prime Minister is the man who actually said to South Australians when this plan was being developed that the way South Australians should actually handle their water is to move to where the water is.

It beggars belief that the man who is now the minister responsible for the plan is the same person, with a different title, who said that South Australians should move to where the water is! I am actually not quite sure what that means. I would think it means that the whole population of South Australia should pick themselves up and move down to the coast, that that would be the only way they would be able to have effective water in their state!

Remember, the whole reason for this plan was a shared acknowledgement that this wonderful Murray-Darling Basin should be treasured and supported, and that this was an agreement that needed to be developed, agreed and understood by all the states through which the Murray-Darling rivers flow. Somehow, between the discussions that began and where we are now, there seemed to be a feeling that this plan is not being supported by today's government. I think that is really disappointing because we just heard Senator Ruston talk about how much she wants South Australia to have an effective plan. I think that is something that everybody shares.

What we do not feel is that there is true trust about the way this is going to operate, particularly in the way that the Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible for the plan, is acting with regard to the discussions and the openness with all the states that are involved. We know that there was concern when the responsibility for the plan for water was given to Mr Barnaby Joyce in his role. In this place we heard the Liberal member for Barker, Tony Pasin, being quoted saying he was 'concerned about the fact that we now have a deeper involvement of the National Party with respect to the implementation of the plan'. There is concern not just about the National Party but in particular about Mr Barnaby Joyce, who is now the minister responsible. With the background he has and with the statements he has made in the past, it is very difficult for the people of South Australia to actually accept that their interests will be well protected by the man who said that their water management should be linked to moving near where it is. (Time expired)