Barwon-Darling Basin Matters of Public Interest

I, too, rise to speak on the issue of water because, as a South Australian, it’s an issue that is vitally important to everyone in our state, whether you live in the metro area, whether you are particularly concerned about the environment, whether you are concerned about the communities along the river who make their living from the water or whether you are concerned about an adequate and reliable supply. That’s why for 100 years South Australians, as part of this federation, have been concerned about water. For 100 years we have seen the inability of the various states to work together to come up with a plan. It’s only this side of politics, under Prime Minister Howard and then the environment minister, Mr Turnbull, that, in 2007, came up with the vision and the plan that became the Water Act and the $10 billion that was associated with that. For the first time, there was national leadership that said, ‘How can we actually put in place a system to make this work?’

As someone who has lived most of my professional life being an experimental test pilot, I know that the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always work perfectly first time around. You have to work at them to make sure they are effective and implemented well. And by and large, whilst there have been ups and downs and issues to work through, that has occurred. One of the reasons our Federation works is that, where something does go wrong in another state, we don’t suddenly have to get the federal government to fix every problem. We actually trust each other around road rules and around health systems. We’re able to transfer a patient from one city to another because we actually trust the regulations. States like New South Wales oversee the bodies that regulate professional standards across Australia in terms of schemes for professional indemnity. That system works. Just because there has been the discovery of what appears to be, on the face of the reporting, illegal activity, we don’t need to upend a system that has worked well for our nation.

We do have a national approach of a review. Mr Ken Matthews AO is leading the investigation from a national perspective. He was the chair and chief executive officer of the National Water Commission, so he knows the people, the system and the stakeholders. He might find examples that need to be explored further. We already have underway the New South Wales independent investigation, the ANAO audit—another national investigation—but, importantly, the referral of allegations to ICAC, which is a body with the powers of a royal commission. So our federation, which works in almost every area you care to point out, will work in this area. We need to trust the stability of our federation to get this right in the interests of all the communities along the Murray-Darling Basin. (Time expired)