Question Time will be abandoned after Labor gave notice of a debate in which the Opposition will again highlight Speirs’ agreement to revised criteria for the delivery of 450GL of environmental flows down the Murray Darling Basin, which Royal Commissioner Bret Walker slammed as a “capitulation” and “political compromise” to the Commonwealth and upstream states, and “antipathetic to the interests of SA”.
While the motion will be defeated on party lines, Manager of Government Business John Gardner said the Liberals were “happy to talk about ministerial standards and back Minister Speirs every day of the week”.
A Labor statement said the motion was “over [Speirs’] capitulation to the Commonwealth and the upstream states by giving away 450 billion litres of water destined for South Australia”.
Labor will move that the Lower House “has no confidence in the Minister for Environment and Water and… calls on him to resign for acting contrary to the interests of South Australia”.
It’s been a torrid week for the second-term MP, who yesterday continued his parliamentary criticisms of the royal commission, defending his move not to update his September submission to the inquiry that confirmed “the SA Government does not agree that a new strategy is required to recover the additional 450GL”.
He signed off on a new strategy three months later.
Speirs told parliament he “realised, as a result of many different pieces of advice, including from the royal commissioner and the senior counsel himself, that [the existing strategy] was not working”.
“For the royal commissioner to suggest that I should have provided my negotiating hand to him publicly in the lead-up to the ministerial council is nonsensical and ludicrous, to say the least,” he said yesterday.
“I was not going to hand over publicly my negotiating position, because that would give New South Wales and Victoria and the other jurisdictions an insight into what we were hoping to achieve.”
There was always after.
— Richard Beasley SC (@RichardCBeasley) February 13, 2019
Asked whether this implied he had withheld information from the royal commission, Speirs told InDaily in a statement: “As I have said all along, the closer it came to the December Ministerial Council meeting it became clearer that the likelihood of achieving the critical 450GL of environmental water was less and less.”
“The old Labor ways of political games, gimmicks and grandstanding had not worked and something needed to change to get the other Basin states to work with us,” he said.
“Under the former government not a single drop of environmental water had been delivered to South Australia from interstate – we now have an agreement with New South Wales and Victoria to deliver real water back to the River.”
The royal commission, in any case, found that the 450GL of environmental flows was “unlikely to be achieved, or at least fully achieved” without the removal of upstream constraints, advocating voluntary water buybacks over irrigation efficiency measures.
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