Water Infrastructure - Public Interest Debate

15 October 2019

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (17:28:45): I welcome the opportunity once again to discuss the dire state of water management in New South Wales. I am glad that this debate will again bring the attention of this House to the crisis that the Coalition Government seems all too willing to ignore. Our State is in drought now. It needs immediate solutions and a government that will take a proactive approach to managing this drought.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will be heard in silence.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: While we welcome any action, the reality is that the benefits of this dam will not be felt for years and years to come. We needed action from this Government yesterday, but today will have to do. The good news is that the blueprint for such a program already exists. I take a moment to remind this House of how Labor managed water during the millennium drought.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the member for Kiama to order for the first time.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: On behalf of New South Wales I ask the Government to listen up and feel free to copy us. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the member for Kiama to order for the second time.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: During the millennium drought, under Labor level 1 water restrictions were introduced in Sydney when supply levels were just below 60 per cent. This time, the Coalition waited until they were at almost 50 per cent before commencing water restrictions. Level 2 water restrictions were introduced when Sydney dam levels dropped below 50 per cent in 2004 and level 3 water restrictions were introduced when dam levels dropped below 40 per cent in June 2005.

Despite Labor introducing a statewide water tank rebate scheme a year before Sydney water restrictions during the millennium drought, the Coalition Government has introduced no such statewide scheme. A washing machine rebate program and a smart showerhead program were introduced months and months before the Sydney level 1 water restrictions were implemented during the millennium drought, but no similar programs have been implemented today. Not only has the current Coalition Government failed to introduce adequate water restrictions; it has also failed to introduce any real and prominent water awareness programs.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kiama will come to order.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: Need I remind this House again of Labor's "Go Slow on the H20" campaign? Now there is no campaign to be seen. I beg the Government to make the funds available now for a proper awareness campaign and to start educating the entire State.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Northern Tablelands will resume his seat.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: Those opposite might not be aware that the technology and the legislation exists for the Government to directly message everyone with a mobile phone and let them know how bad this drought is, that water restrictions apply and what they can do to help.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind the member for Kiama that he is on two calls to order.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: The reality is that the benefits of this dam will not be felt for years to come. The Government must act now. It must make funds available now for initiatives that will have an impact today. Make funds available now for a statewide washing machine rebate program, a smart showerhead program and a statewide water tank rebate scheme so that electorates like mine—one of the very few electorates that are blessed to be getting regular rain—can do their bit for the rest of the State.

In 2019 the total rainfall for the electorate of Coogee so far has been 943.8 millimetres. The New South Wales average for the year to date is 554.5 millimetres. That means the electorate of Coogee's rainfall this year is over 170 per cent of the New South Wales State average. Because there is no water tank rebate scheme, encouraging people to capture this rainfall, many throughout the eastern suburbs are using potable water to water their gardens. This is ridiculous. Towns and communities across this State are literally running out of water to drink. The Government must act now and roll out initiatives that will have an impact today—not in 10 years' time. This is one of the worst droughts, if not the worst drought, we have seen in our country's history. Towns and entire communities across this great State are literally running out of water to drink.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the member for Kiama to order for the third time.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL: The National Party, both in this place and Canberra, have only one solution. It is a one-trick pony but that pony is also thirsty. The Nationals members have not thought of investing in recycled water or stormwater harvesting—projects that would work well in my electorate and many others. They have not realised that Australia is an island and that owning a desalination plant might prove useful. They have not thought of incentivising the people of New South Wales to use less water or to capture their own rainfall. It seems they have not thought of anything.

Perhaps the Deputy Premier is too used to being told what to do by Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud; that he has forgotten how to think for himself. In the absence of a national drought policy, the Deputy Premier and The Nationals in New South Wales have been left to their own devices and, of course, have come up short. The Federal Coalition has created a $2 billion water infrastructure loans facility and a $1.3 billion National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. Maybe, if The Nationals in this place could get over their egos and call up their dry-mop mates in Canberra, the people of New South Wales could start to see some action on this emergency we are all facing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members will be heard in silence. Members who wish to engage in private conversations should do so outside the Chamber.