Desalination Plant

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SpeakersSpeaker; Hartcher Mr Chris; Rees Mr Nathan
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 1748

      Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: I address my question to the Minister for Water Utilities. According to a letter on the Minister's "Water for Life" website, his independent panel headed by Professor Cullen supported a desalination plant only if Sydney's dams levels fell below 30 per cent.

      The SPEAKER: Order! Government members will remain silent.

      Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: Members opposite should control themselves and have a bit of self-discipline. What new independent advice has the Minister received that justifies his decision to now overrule the independent panel and ignore the 30 per cent trigger? Will the Minister table the advice?
      Mr NATHAN REES: As has been well canvassed by the Premier, the Government is not in the business of gambling with Sydney's water supply. As the member knows, we are in an international queue for those facilities. As the member saw last week, Melbourne is now paying $1 billion more than we are because it did not get in the queue early enough. That is part of the answer. The second part of the answer is that there is a contingency allowance, which is standard for any engineering project. I will walk members through some of the personal prejudice that masquerades for public policy on the Opposition's side.
      First, this morning the Leader of the Opposition said that not a drop of stormwater was being collected. Wrong! There are more than 70 projects across Sydney doing just that. The challenge for the Opposition is to outline where it wants to put 150 reservoirs, each the size of 20 Olympic swimming pools, to capture only 20 per cent of rainfall—not glib remarks, but sound policy. Second, another fallacy engaged in by that Opposition is that the intakes and outlet pipes around the desalination plant will cause environmental dramas. They know that is not the case. I have a news flash for the member for Terrigal, who recently flagged a danger to whales: they do not have gills!
      The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Terrigal to order. The Minister will direct his comments through the Chair.

      Mr NATHAN REES: As the Opposition well knows, we are not putting all our water eggs in the one basket. The desalination plant is part of a suite of options, including massive recycling.
      The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.

      Mr NATHAN REES: Yesterday, $250 million was announced for a recycling plant in Western Sydney, and a guarantee for Sydney's water supply for the future, and we are not gambling with that.