Niall Blair fails to raise Broken Hill water crisis with Barnaby Joyce
MEDIA RELEASE – 9 March 2016
The Greens NSW Water Spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today said he was shocked that state Water Minister, Niall Blair had not raised the issue of Broken Hill’s water crisis with the federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce, and questioned whether the National Party was taking the issue seriously, or were simply looking out for their mates in the upstream irrigation industry.
“I asked Niall Blair a very simple question: had he made representations to Barnaby Joyce on the Broken Hill water crisis? Mr Blair spoke for a few minutes without answering the question – a clear indication he has not raised the issue with Mr Joyce,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.
“What the hell is Minister Niall Blair doing if he hasn’t even raised the issue of Broken Hill’s water supply with Barnaby Joyce in the six months since Barnaby took on the federal water portfolio?
“Both Mr Blair and Mr Joyce are members of the NSW Nationals. Surely they should have discussed it? What is the excuse? Are they forgetful or do they not care?
“Barnaby Joyce was based in St George in the heart of Queensland’s cotton irrigation belt, and was informally known as the “Member for Cubbie Station”. I fear that the National Party are looking after their mates in the cotton industry ahead of the people of Broken Hill and others reliant on the Darling River.
“There have been several rain events in Southern Queensland, but the Darling River is dry as a bone.
“We need a water minister who is prepared to stand up and fight for the people reliant on the Darling River, but Mr Blair is failing to even raise the issue with his National Party colleagues.
“The fact is the National Party has sold the people of the far West down the river, just as they sent all the water from the Menindee Lakes down river.”
Hansard Transcript of Question and Answer:
WESTERN NEW SOUTH WALES WATER
8 March 2016
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Lands and Water. Have formal representations been made on behalf of the people of Broken Hill, Menindee, Wilcannia and Pooncarrie to the Federal Minister for Water, Barnaby Joyce, regarding their water crisis? If so, what has been his response?
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the member for his question. Each of those places is different and there are a number of different elements I could run through about a series of projects. Even though they originally come off the Darling system, some of them utilise weirs for their water supply, some have bores and some are looking at bigger projects. In some cases this Government has not needed to go to anyone else for assistance because it has been able to allocate funds. Regarding the short-term and long-term solution for Broken Hill, this Government has funded it through its promise it took to the 2015 election. It does not need to seek extra funding for that project to commence because the funds have been committed. Regarding some other projects, the Department of Primary Industries Water can fund those projects within the commitments that this Government has made.
We cannot talk about issues relating to water security for communities such as Broken Hill, which relies on the Menindee system, without talking to the Federal Government and other States. All those systems are intrinsically linked. The operation and the types of works that we are talking about in places such as Menindee, particularly when there is water in the lakes, falls to the Federal Government. The issue has been raised not only with the Federal Government but also with the Victorian and South Australian governments. Those are the types of things that we have regularly discussed at the ministerial council. More importantly, we have discussed what we are doing with communities up and down the Darling system. What is an issue at Menindee is also an issue for the communities that rely on the irrigation sector further upstream and downstream of Menindee.
Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: My point of order is relevance. My question asked what formal representations the Minister had made specifically to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce. We are nearly two minutes into his answer and he has not been generally relevant to the question about representations to the Minister.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order.
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Those issues are regularly discussed with a number of stakeholders, including communities along the Darling system, other States that have involvement with the operating system and other jurisdictions such as the Federal Government. Those issues are discussed quite openly with the Federal Minister at the ministerial council. I have had discussions with the local member, Sussan Ley, about what is happening out there and also about redistribution. The township of Broken Hill and Menindee Lakes will be redistributed into another Federal seat. I am sure there will be another series of conversations with Federal members about what we are planning. The point is that the New South Wales Government is funding this project. It took that issue to the election. Those opposite stood in the way of that funding. This Government is now building on the short-term solutions we have already implemented to create long-term solutions. The operation of Menindee Lakes is regularly discussed with many different stakeholders. [Time expired.]