Speech to the South Australian Labor Party Convention - “South Australia will get the water South Australia needs”
SAT 27 OCTOBER 2012
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It really is good to be back. Back here in this State with such a proud progressive tradition and such a great Labor government.
Hiring 700 extra teachers. Investing $900 million in healthcare.
And under Labor, South Australia has found room in a tight budget for priorities we all believe in and share.
You’ve said ‘yes’ to a national plan for school improvement. And you’ve said ‘yes’ to a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Jay, leading your Labor Government is leading a Government that is fighting for the people of South Australia every day. And it is a Government that we will fight to see the re-election of in 2014.
It’s good to be back here amongst friends. Can I acknowledge your State President, Matt Pinnegar. State Secretary, Reggie Martin. Ministers and Parliamentary colleagues. Thank you all for being here today. A roomful of true believers. Keepers of the faith, every one.
Most of all, it’s great to be back in the city that made me who I am. The city where my father first taught me to stand up for what is right.
Where some wonderful teachers gave me lessons I’ve carried throughout my life. This place of incredible leaders who inspired a young woman growing up with high hopes for the future. Leaders like Doug Nichols, Roma Mitchell, Len King, Mick Young and Don Dunstan. A great South Australian track record.
From their wonderful examples I absorbed lessons about progress in society. And about what optimism and resolve is needed to achieve progress.
For those of us in the Labor family, that optimism and that resolve leads us to find our “to-do list” in the “too hard basket”. Where the big decisions sit, where the big problems have been left for someone else to solve.
Throughout Australian history, that someone else, the people who get things done, is always our Party, always Labor.
And in 2012, it’s up to Labor once again.
No other Party could deliver national high-speed broadband. We’re getting it done.
No other Party could deliver for this nation a clean energy future. We’re getting it done.
No other Party could deliver a national plan for school improvement, or the first full reform of school funding in forty years. We’re getting it done.
No other Party could conceive of, let alone deliver, a National Disability Insurance Scheme. We’re getting it done.
And friends – no other Party could deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Our Party in Government will get it done.
I know nothing is more important to South Australia than the waters of the Murray. Everyone who grows up here knows this, everyone who lives here knows what the Murray means to us.
I know how the people of Adelaide feel about being at the end of the Murray-Darling system. I grew up here listening to all of the jokes about Adelaide water whenever you travelled interstate. I know what that is like. I know what it’s like to worry about the waters of the River Murray during drought. I’ve lived here during drought; I know how the people of Adelaide feel. The waters of our great river, which nourish and feed our great nation, must be shared all the way down the stream.
And as Prime Minister, I’ve brought that understanding of this city and this state to this great national task. I’ve been out to the Coorong and the Lower Lakes and I’ve seen the environment in crisis.
I’ve put out a hand of co-operation to the Premiers of the basin states. And I’ve lent an ear to their advocacy for their legitimate interests.
I know South Australia is not asking for rivers of gold. You’re just asking for a river that flows, and that’s not too much to ask.
And Delegates, I want you to know today – your State Government has been a strong and powerful voice for you.
Both our Governments want a Basin Plan that delivers a healthy River Murray. Both our Governments want decisions that are based on sound science. Above all both our Governments want a plan for the River’s future that is based on the facts. And we have the political will to achieve it.
The facts show us what to do. The will to get it done is what we possess. And these two things have not come together before. The facts and the will. Not in all the entire 111 years since Federation.
There remains work to do in the coming weeks and months to gain agreement to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
But you all now know, that yesterday we reached a key milestone.
So I was so proud to go to Goolwa yesterday. To stand alongside your Premier to announce new measures to ensure South Australia will get the water South Australia needs.
And that is thanks to new scientific modelling that we’ve been able to understand what it is that South Australia needs. We now understand the environmental outcomes that can be achieved with 3,200 gigalitres being returned to the Murray.
By relaxing capacity constraints and providing an additional 450 gigalitres – that is, above the 2,750 described in the plan – we know by doing that we can deliver better environmental outcomes.
The water outcomes South Australians have sought for decades can be achieved. More water in the Lower Lakes; more water for our wetlands and our River Red Gums; more productive soils with less salinity; and more days when the mouth of the Murray can be open at the sea.
And we can deliver these outcomes in a way which gets the balance right. We’ll achieve it, in the main, by investing in infrastructure, preventing water wastage and cutting river management red tape.
This change requires investment.
And infrastructure-based solutions come at a greater direct cost than water buybacks – that’s widely understood. To protect this vital investment in our nation, the Commonwealth will put our funding in a new Water for the Environment Special Account – a locked box for the river’s future.
Doing it this way, we can ensure South Australia gets the water it needs – and we can ensure more.
I know you have not just campaigned hard for what is fair for your state. You have campaigned hard for what is in the national interest. This is not just a plan for a fair share of the water here, it is a plan for the smart use of the water everywhere.
By focusing on that national interest, we can ensure the Murray–Darling Basin remains the foodbowl of Australia, as it is now.
We can deliver new infrastructure for the future of regional communities.
And we can secure the food and fibre industries which will be vital to our prosperity in this Asian Century of change.
This is the right outcome for this great state. It is the right policy for our nation. And it is the kind of decision which only Labor ever makes.
Planning for the future.
Working together for progress.
The Murray-Darling has been a test of Australian governments for more than a century now. It is a test your State and Federal Governments are ready to pass. Now it will become a test for the conservative Opposition too.
This is no time for aggressive negativity. The Murray matters too much, the national interest matters too much.
This is no time for political blood in the water. This is a time to sign up to a plan for the future.
We know the Federal conservatives have turned their back on South Australia before.
When they promised to turn off the construction of the submarines here. When they promised to rip out support to manufacturing jobs. All so vital to your state’s high-wage, high-skill economic future.
When they promised to dig up the NBN. The NBN has been connected in Willunga. It’s being rolled-out in Seaford/McLaren Vale, Aldinga, Modbury, Port Augusta, Victor Harbour, Port Elliot, Prospect, Strathalbyn, Stirling and Yankalilla – with the rest of the state to come. The lifeline of the digital economy, and they want to pull it out of the ground.
In many areas of our national life, the truth is the conservatives always choose negativity and destruction rather than building for the future. The Liberals just won’t help build for the future.
On water, time is running out for the Opposition to put the nation first and do the right thing.
We know what they say about the Murray when they’re upstream. We know what they say about the Murray when they’re downstream. We know their key lines change whenever they cross a state border.
What matters now is what their Leader does.
I call on the Opposition now to do the right thing by the country.
Mr No should say yes to our plan for more water in the Murray.
You know the people of South Australia and the nation are looking for him to say yes and to say it very clearly today. The facts are on our side. Australians look at the closed mouth of the Murray and we know we can make it flow.
Australians look at the 400,000 people living with disability and we know we can help.
We look at the 500,000 children scoring below the national benchmarks in literacy and numeracy, and we know we can act.
We look at suburbs and towns stuck with slow, unreliable broadband and we know we can invest.
The facts are on our side in all the big decisions, on our side in water policy, on our side in the big national debates.
And when you hear the economy is anything but strong, remember; the facts are on our side.
Australia stands tall. 21 years of economic growth. 51st in world population, 12th in world in national wealth. New business investment at a 40-year high – over 17 per cent of GDP. AAA ratings from all three credit rating agencies. Federal government outlays at or below 24 per cent of GDP through our Budget forward estimates – the longest sustained period since the early 1980s.
Eight hundred thousand jobs created.
And official interest rates at 3.25 per cent. Lower than on any day in the eleven years of the last Liberal Government. Those numbers mean real benefits for Australian families. Take interest rates. The average family with a $300,000 mortgage is around $4,500 a year better off because of where interest rates are now.
All of these facts mean our nation is strong. And our strength means our nation has an opportunity in the years ahead.
Our nation is changing. The world around us is changing. This is a time when true security lies in building on our strengths, in building for our future, in shaping our own destiny, not just drifting with the tides. This is a time when great national goals can only be delivered with a real national plan.
The Australian people know it.
This is a time which calls for nation-building, and so this is a time which calls for Labor.
We are the only ones who will get it done. The only Party with the courage and the optimism to build the future. The only Party who believes in building a future that can be fairly shared by all of us.
The only Party with a clear plan to deliver that future for South Australians; for the nation.