Jun 25, 2007

Transcript of doorstop – Labor’s Rainwater/Grey Water Plan; State/Federal Blame

Partial Transcript of Doorstop – The Brisbane Institute




Subjects: Labor’s Rainwater/Grey Water Plan; State/Federal Blame Game

25 JUNE 2007

RUDD: Australia’s future economy needs fresh ideas to face the fresh challenges that we face. Today we’ve been talking about the productivity challenge, we’ve been talking about the climate change challenge, we’ve also been talking about the water challenge as well, and I’ll ask Anthony to speak further on that in a minute.

When it comes to water, what Mr Howard has announced so far is a national water plan which deals with the Murray-Darling, but which effectively says he has no plan for the 18 million other Australians who are not affected by the Murray-Darling. We’re concerned, therefore, about the future water needs of those 18 million other Australians.

That’s why today we’ve called for the development of an integrated national urban water strategy. Australia needs such a strategy. Mr Costello has said up until now that we, the Commonwealth, don’t control urban water supplies, therefore we’ve got no role. Well, that logic just falls over in a heap for the simple reason it’s the Commonwealth’s engaged in many things by way of funding, which they don’t have direct control over on the ground.

Our approach is different. We believe Australia now needs a long term, integrated national urban water strategy, one which incorporates what we do on the future of recycling, what we do on the future or desalination, what we do on the future of stormwater harvesting, what we do on the question of the adequacy of our pipes and our pipeline networks, and what we do on the question of demand side management – residential, commercial and industrial.

On the residential front today, we’ve announced one element of Labor’s integrated National Urban Water Strategy, and that goes to assisting every household with how do you go about buying either a rainwater tank or how you help with grey water and how you help install the pipes necessary to make grey water systems within households work effectively.

So, we’re putting on the table a subsidy of up to $500 and that will cost us, over a six year period, a total of $250 million.

I’ve said this as well: let’s establish a goal for the nation. Why not have this goal for the nation of having for every Australian household a rainwater tank or a grey water piping system by 2017, by 2020 to make sure that we are doing every bit at the household level to deal with Australia’s water crisis? This is a practical step forward, it builds on our previous policy of discretionary loans of up to $10,000 to assist people with water efficiency and energy efficiency measures within their home, it enables every Australian household to do their bit to rise to the challenge of Australia’s national water crisis.

ALBANESE: Today’s National Rainwater/Grey Water Plan announcement is, of course, about households and it builds on previous announcements, including support for major infrastructure, which would increase the amount of water which is recycled to achieve our target of 30 per cent recycling of all waste water by 2015.

In April, Labor announced at our National Conference, our support of $20 million funding for the Shell Water Recycling Project in Geelong. That would free up precious drinking water for the population of Geelong and it would also stop pollution into the Bay in terms of the outfall that currently occurs from the Geelong plant.

On Saturday, the Environment and Water Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced unilaterally $12.5 million of Commonwealth funding for that project. He did that without consultation with the States, and indeed without consultation with Shell. And it’s an example of the Government, I think, playing catch up far too late and when it does it, doing it in a non-consultative manner for this particular project. This is an important project, it should be supported and it should receive the $20 million funding from the Commonwealth.

And today we call upon the Environment and Water Minister to match Labor’s commitment to this important water infrastructure project.

JOURNALIST: The North Urban Water Supply, Brisbane City Council has a $75 million aquifer project (inaudible).

RUDD: We intend to make sure that we offer is in addition to any existing State and local government initiatives. Do you know why? Our national objective, our national goal is 2017, 2020, let’s aim for the country whereby every household in the country has a tank or has a grey water system, in order to do our bit when it comes to reducing and eliminating water wastage at the home level. That, I think, is the best way to go. Practically, our incentives build on those which exist at other levels of government and would not substitute them.

JOURNALIST: Given the Prime Minister’s announcement on the indigenous affairs and yours today, both parties at the Federal level have recently intervened in State affairs (inaudible) is this going to be an increasing trend as we come towards an election?

RUDD: Well, I have a very clear cut policy when it comes to dealing with the States and Territories; it’s called ending the blame game. That’s my policy. End the blame game. What the States and Territories and local authorities have been saying to us now for the last six months is when it comes to water infrastructure and helping us deal with local community water needs, be our partners, don’t just be our critics. That’s what we’ve been trying to do here. There’s a difference between that on the one hand, and different approaches to handling other levels of government on the other. I prefer the cooperative approach, you get better outcomes.

JOURNALIST: You’re not concerned that these announcements, like today, that they might be lost in the ether of council responsibilities and similar politics, and State responsibilities …

RUDD: No. Nationwide, if you go through every State in the country, despite recent rains, let me tell you the national water crisis is a looming, continuing, challenge for people who are asking their national government to show the lead. What’s the difference? We’re saying, here’s a national water crisis. Part of it, 18 million people, are affected by long term supply of urban water. The question is what are the elements of dealing with urban water long term, given we’ve got overall problems of supply? What we’ve said is we need a nationally driven, integrated urban water strategy for the country. That involves a lot of infrastructure spending. The level of government with the most financial muscle ultimately ends up being the Commonwealth. That’s why I think the national government should take the lead.

JOURNALIST: What makes you think that they’ll be any more bickering, there’ll be less bickering, though, if you become Prime Minister? It will just be a sort of Labor Prime Minister bickering with Labor States.

RUDD: I’m just a nicer guy. No, seriously, the point is, the point there is we’re saying that when it comes to fixing deep seated problems within the Federation, cost shift, blame shift between Canberra and the States, on hospitals, health care, and that area, or when it comes to critical infrastructure needs like urban infrastructure including water, our approach is this: end the blame game, end the cost shift, end the blame shift, so that the voting public know which level of government is responsible for what and they know conjointly which levels of the government are contributing what. That’s our model for the future.

And if we’re elected to form the next government of Australia, guess what? When it comes to ending cost shift, blame shift, because there are all Labor governments around the country, I would have no excuse whatsoever for not actually delivering the outcome. In other words, you couldn’t rely on political bickering as your excuse for not achieving the outcome. So, that’s my commitment. If we form the next government, let’s actually wrestle these problems to the ground.

The BCA has indicated $9 billion each year are being wasted as a consequence of cost shift, blame shift, principally in health and hospitals. My commitment is let’s wrestle that to the ground and if elected, I believe, with some political goodwill, we could make some big inroads into that. And on top of that, we’d have no excuse for not delivering the outcome. Got to run.