Topics: Environment portfolio, water reform
Greg Hunt joins us now. Minister, good morning.
Good morning, Michael.
How do you feel about losing responsibility to Water to the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce?
Well actually, Water was always with Barnaby Joyce prior to the election. After the election I was asked to do a particular reform job.
There were three major things to be done. One was to get the Basin Plan agreed because it had been left in a shambles under Labor. We did that.
Two was to reform and make changes with regards to the National Water Commission. We did that.
Three was to rollout the infrastructure plan which is $2.5 million a day of actual investment in the Basin. That's being done.
And then the last thing, which was not expected at the time, was to achieve the 1,500 gigalitre – or billion litre – cap, which gives water security to both agriculture and to the river. That went through by pure serendipity at 11am on Monday morning.
And so my reform job was done and complete. The Water portfolio was ready to move into implementation.
And I met with Malcolm yesterday and I said – my job is done, I think that this is something which could happily be returned to Agriculture because it's the Basin community and the farmers who actually have to work with the outcomes. And the reforms are done.
It wasn't a portfolio element that I sought but I was asked to have. And we didn't just achieve the outcome, we've just had the two greatest years of water reform in Australian history and my work is complete.
And in Barnaby, you've got somebody who lives in the Basin, who has the ear of the farm community, who has had the portfolio and is a very good man.
But – I hear what you say, but is there not an inherent conflict of interest in the Agriculture Minister having control of Australia's water resources?
No. We have a legislative regime here which guarantees that we will have outcomes for the river, for communities and for agriculture.
The primary task now is the re-plumbing of rural Australia. So, continuing the rollout of the $2.5 million a day for covering earth and channels, for replacing channels with piping.
In Mildura for example, I stood in a more than two metre diameter pipe that was replacing an open, leaky rammed-earth channel which was going to save seven billion litres a year – give farmers additional support for water security.
So that's the primary job now – is the infrastructure job. The legislative regime, the support for the environmental flows to the river, that's all in legislation.
The Basin Plan has been completed. It went nowhere in six years under the previous Government. It was done and dusted and fixed in two years under us.
And I'm happy to say my job is done and I'm really pleased with the outcome and now it goes into the best possible pair of hands.
Is your job done generally as Environment Minister? Would you like to keep the portfolio?
Look, I love the portfolio and I'd be delighted if I were asked to continue. I'm never presumptive but always optimistic.
And we're learning from Barrie Cassidy this morning that Joe Hockey, the Treasurer, has been offered the Communications portfolio. Would that be a good move?
Look Joe's immensely capable. I understandably won't try to speculate on other people's portfolios and other people's responsibilities.
A new Prime Minister has the opportunity to shape things in his or her image. What's Malcolm Turnbull's image? What's he trying to do for the country?
It's to give a sense of compassion and opportunity and innovation. And that is who he is and that's what he's bringing to the country.
And we will have, in my judgment – the Australian people willing – a deep, long-term period of stability and confidence and innovation.
Just by the way, did you vote for Malcolm Turnbull on Monday?
Look it's well known that when Malcolm Turnbull was the leader, and I was part of his shadow Cabinet, I was one of a small group that were with him when things were reaching a terminal point. And as a matter of principle I stayed with him.
And as a matter of principle I applied the same position, being in the Cabinet with Tony Abbott, and both parties knew exactly where I stood.
Those are my particular values. I don't say them in any way to set myself apart. But my approach is always to adopt a set of values and be open with all parties.
We're just about of time. In fact, we are out of time. Thank you very much for your time this morning.
Look, it’s a pleasure Michael.