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Toorale Station Purchase

Speeches in Parliament
Rachel Siewert 17 Sep 2008

It is not often that we actually congratulate the government, I will freely admit that it is not often, but this is an example of where we do congratulate them. We have very publicly said that we think that the purchase of Toorale was a very important contribution.

Senator Chris Evans-What have you been smoking?

Senator SIEWERT-I did so publicly, Senator Evans. Mea culpa, I am on record saying that we congratulate the government and they have done a good job in purchasing that property.

Senator Chris Evans-Make sure Hansard got that.

Senator SIEWERT-Yes, we are making sure that has happened. Not only is this good for the Warrego, it is good for the Darling and it is good for the whole Murray-Darling Basin. On the one hand, we have the coalition saying that we have to save the Lower Lakes, but, on the other hand, it cannot be done by buying water from the sound of it. What we are still obviously failing to grasp in this debate is that we have to change the way we manage the Murray Darling system. We have grossly overallocated the system. Not only do we have the impact of climate change but-certainly, from the evidence that we received at the hearings that we have held so far into the Coorong and Lower Lakes-it sounds like we have grossly underestimated the impact that climate change will have on the river and the impact of the reduction in run-off on the river.

This highlights yet again that we have to be managing the whole system. The purchase of Toorale is very important because it puts water back into the system, but it is also the beginning of the necessary restructuring that we are going to have to do. Yes, there may be some readjusting in the local area but-I tell you what-there is going to be a massive restructuring in the area if it is not properly guided, and if it is ad hoc. That will bring with it a lot of misery if we do not get ahead of the game. If we just let this happen by osmosis or lack of osmosis, because there ain't going to be any water, we are going to face a very bad situation in rural areas

As Don Blackmore said the other day on national radio-Don Blackmore knows a thing or two about the Murray, let me remind people, having headed up the Murray-Darling Basin Commission for a number of years-it is about time we had an honest discussion about the Murray-Darling Basin. An honest discussion: no pretending that if we close our eyes and do not listen, all of a sudden things are going to get better, we will return to normal and it will be business as usual. I am sorry. That is never going to happen.

We can have an honest discussion where we actually allocate resources on a meaningful, purposeful basis that is fair and leads to the long-term sustainability of the environment, the river system, agriculture and the communities in that region. But, if we do not, we are going to end up with a series of crises, like that which is facing the Coorong, along all the wetlands along the Murray-Darling Basin. Buying Toorale and getting rid of the embankments there and allowing the Warrego to run free for the first time in a long time will have multiple benefits for the Murray-Darling system, for the wetlands along the system, for the river itself and for the native fish that are in that system. That station is one of the highest priority bioregions for protection of land as well. That area has very high biodiversity value, so the combination of the federal government working with the state government-unusual though that cooperation is-has a good shared outcome in terms of water for the river, for the ecosystems and for the native fish that are in that area. (Time expired)

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