Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Topics: South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program

Transcript: ABC Country Hour - Interview with Clint Jasper
29 November 2013

NEWSREADER: Senator Simon Birmingham Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment.

CLINT JASPER: So when you hear announcing guidelines for the Three IP Funding, what effectively does that mean?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well this will allow money to start flowing into river communities throughout South Australia, so some thirty-million dollars will be made available this financial year before 30 June, with a total of two-hundred-and-sixty-five million dollars to be made available over the next six years. And it will see investment in irrigation, fish and sea projects in some level of water purchasing, but also importantly, there's one-hundred-and-twenty million dollars effectively available for economic developments projects by irrigators and farmers throughout the community. It can really hope to restore the productive base of these Riverland communities.

CLINT JASPER: I guess one of the big concerns irrigators have had throughout the process of rolling this out, has been the lack of clarity around how they'll apply for funds and when things will start rolling out. Is what you're announcing today go some way to addressing that?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it means that the ball can get rolling quite quickly from here and I would hope and expect that the South Australian Government will be administering these grants, will be able to get the guidelines published, start receiving applications and give absolute clarity to Riverland irrigators and Murrayland irrigators and everybody who might look to apply for grants under these programs. There are some wonderful opportunities for people to be innovative and inventive and aim to expand the size of their business, diversify their business - there's a lot of flexibility built into it, but as long as there is an economic dividend, a productivity dividend, ultimately something will generate jobs for the future in this community, then they really should be able to get it through.

CLINT JASPER: The way this funding has been negotiated and rolled out probably can be described as a new way of doing business between Federal and State in terms of funding. Has there been resistance to this in Canberra?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Certainly not. Look, we view this as a very important project I committed before the election that an avid Government would ensure there were no delays in having this project rolled out and here less than three months since taking office, we've got the guidelines finalised with the South Australian Government and we're ready to get the ball rolling.

We want to make sure that projects like this deliver the dividend for local communities which is increased production, increased economic activity and more jobs for the future.

CLINT JASPER: So, if an irrigator is listening to this and perhaps starting to think of projects are you able to give any estimation when they might be able to start actually planning something?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I would hope they can start applying within the next few weeks. There's no reason for the South Australian Government to delay the process of opening applications and they'll of course need to go through some proper levels of scrutiny. There'll be thirty million dollars being handed over this year. My expectation is we should start to see some monies rolling out in the community before 30 June.

CLINT JASPER: Onto another topic now. Early this morning, Treasurer Joe Hockey rejected Arthur Daniels Midland's takeover of GrainCorp. What do you think that was a good move?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it's really important in times like this to reinforce the importance of foreign investment into Australia, especially into agriculture in Australia. Ultimately, on this one occasion, the Treasurer determined that it was not in the national interest but it is very, very important to acknowledge that we wouldn't be able to have the type of expansion of agriculture, industries and assets in investment without some level of foreign involvement. It's been critical throughout Australia's history. It will be critical in the future and as Joe Hockey was at pains to emphasise himself, he's approved more than one-hundred-and-thirty significant investments in his time as Treasurer. There's just one that he's now disapproved.

CLINT JASPER: So you don't think this sits compared to Government being open for business as they said on election night?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We are well and truly open for business. That's why the river communities - we're spending two-hundred-and-sixty-five million dollars to inspire extra economic activity and we welcome foreign investment. We must emphasise when decisions like this are made, that foreign investment is to be welcomed, that most times overwhelmingly, it will be approved. There just may be the odd occasion where it for certain reasons, is not in the National Interest and that's the Treasurer's judgement on this occasion.

CLINT JASPER: Well, thank you for your time Senator Simon Birmingham.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolute pleasure.

Simon Birmingham

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