Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


Water Buybacks

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:33): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on primary production and irrigation.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: During budget estimates, when asked whether PIRSA had undertaken any analysis or research on what the effects might be on the state's food and fibre production from a mass buyback policy, the minister stated:

I am not aware of any evidence to suggest that buybacks would have a negative impact, as the member is implying.

When asked to clarify if water buybacks would lead to a loss of production in the South Australian food system, the minister replied:

My understanding is that the evidence has not shown that to be the case.

My questions to the minister are:

1. What evidence from primary industries stakeholders, whom the minister represents, shows that a buyback or loss of water, without infrastructure upgrades to improve water efficiency used to grow our food and fibre, does not equate to a negative impact on primary production?

2. Has the minister consulted with any primary producers or growers on this topic?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:34): I thank the honourable member for her question. I think it is worth referring to the statements made by the royal commissioner on the Murray-Darling plan, Bret Walker AO SC. In his report on the River Murray in South Australia, he said—and I think this is a fairly accurate statement, but it is not a direct quote—he found that there is no evidence to support claims that buyback programs hurt local economies and communities. This is because irrigators most often continue to retain some water holdings and because buybacks aren't concentrated on one town or region.

We know that those opposite don't think very much of the royal commissioner. They certainly don't think very much of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Under the previous government, we saw a total lack of ability to advocate for our state, a total lack of ability to hold the upstream irrigators to account for the flows that had been promised to South Australia under the plan. We know those opposite don't have that kind of commitment. They are further demonstrating it here, because what I am guessing is that they are not going to accept the evidence that was provided by the commissioner.