World Water Day | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:18 :35 ): It gives me great pleasure to rise on United Nations World Water Day, 22 March, to highlight some issues that are very relevant at the moment in South Australia. World Water Day is a tremendous initiative trying to highlight the fact that water is one of the most important basic commodities and should be made available to all people all over the world.

This year, the United Nations theme is ‘Better water, better jobs’, and the head of UN Water, Guy Ryder, says on their website ‘water means work’ and ‘all jobs depend on water’, which of course strikes a theme in South Australia where we have the highest unemployment in the nation and the lowest business confidence in the nation, and we also have water mains bursting throughout metropolitan Adelaide, so that is a very great concern.

We also have in South Australia the very unfortunate reality that, over the last 14 years of Labor government, water prices for South Australians have gone up 236 per cent, so at the same time that we know what an important link there is between water and employment—and we have dreadfully high unemployment—we also have dreadfully high water prices. I quote from a media release this morning from the ABS talking about water prices, and this media release from the ABS is in response to the UN’s World Water Day. It says, ‘South Australian householders paid the most in Australia at an average of $4.29 per thousand litres.’ That is from Mr Mark Lound from the ABS. Again, it is a very sad indictment of the way our government is managing water.

I move on to what for me, with regard to my electorate, is just an absolutely disgraceful statement of fact. While South Australians on average are paying $4.29 per kilolitre, the highest in the nation, my constituents on the Barrier Highway are paying $13 a kilolitre. So, in a very socioeconomically challenged set of towns out at the Barrier Highway, including Terowie, Oodla Wirra, Yunta, Manna Hill, Olary and Cockburn, those people are paying $13 a kilolitre—and it gets worse. It is $13 a kilolitre for water that you cannot drink. Thirteen dollars a kilolitre is on their bill and also on their bill is ‘Do not drink this water.’ It is an absolutely disgraceful situation.

We are, in South Australia, unfortunately treating many of our own like Third World citizens. I know how fortunate we are, on average, in South Australia and in Australia compared to many other people across the world, so I do not talk about our life in general. I am very well aware of how fortunate we are in many ways. However, on World Water Day, when it comes to water, we are treating remote South Australians living in hot, dry, parched climates completely unacceptably with $13 a kilolitre for water that they cannot drink, and just over the border in New South Wales they pay 67 cents a kilolitre for water that you cannot drink. When they get water that they cannot drink, it is non-potable and not up to standard, but they pay 67 cents a kilolitre in New South Wales compared with our people. This is a dreadful situation.

We really are treating our remote South Australians in a completely unacceptable way. It is unacceptable that on average the rest of South Australia pays the highest prices for water across the whole nation, according to the ABS, but the people in my electorate on the Barrier Highway are getting treated much worse than that. It is a very small number of customers who are supplied by SA Water in that part of our state.

It would not hurt SA Water to charge them the same price as people in the rest of South Australia are paying. We have a government controlled monopoly provider of the most important commodity in the universe, being water, and it makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year by charging South Australians as a monopoly for that product. They can afford to help the people of the Barrier Highway and give them fair prices for water and give them good quality water like the rest of the state receives and deserves.