Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fish Beware

The Honourable members met for question time in the Queensland State Parliament yesterday. If you appreciate -as I do- good theatre, then the script from the Hansard record is worth a read.

I don’t think this requires any further commentary from me. So grab yourself a king-size tub of popcorn, put your feet up on the seat in front, and enjoy…

Purified Recycled Water

Mr LEE: My question is to the Premier. Could the Premier inform the House about the former leader of the National Party’s attempts to undermine the future of Queensland’s food producers as part of a scare campaign against purified recycled water?

Mr BEATTIE: The answer is yes. I was not surprised but I guess disappointed that the former leader of the opposition was out scaremongering about recycled water—scaremongering is what he did. He raised issues about food. Let us talk to the experts; let us not talk to those people who have trouble accessing and understanding the Net.

An opposition member interjected.

Mr BEATTIE: Please, for once, just don’t be rude. Mark Panitz from the peak horticultural group Growcom—those opposite know Growcom—has dismissed the argument and says that the claims are not helpful. He states— Food safety systems are in place so that we can guarantee our consumers and buyers, wherever they are around the world, that our product is really pure and very safe. What do the farmers say? The farmers agree with us; that is the first thing. The second thing is that the former leader of the opposition—

Opposition members interjected.

Mr BEATTIE: They are being rude again. Can those opposite actually ever not be rude? Is there anyone decent with any manners over there at all?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Premier is on his feet.

Mr BEATTIE: Let me come to the second point. The former leader of the opposition then went on and said that he had got on the Net and checked out Thames Water. He says that they basically do not have recycled water. I do not know where he checked that out but the fact is that they do. The former leader of the opposition, who wants to be a recycled leader, says that he got on the Net and checked it out. What is the story? Here is a report from Thames Water, which states—
The river Thames is used as a disposal route for effluent from 350 waste water treatment plants including some of the largest in Europe. Indirect re-use of treated effluent further downstream contributes about—

Mr Springborg interjected.

Mr BEATTIE: You don’t need to be rude either.

Mr STEVENS: I rise to a point of order. The Premier is misleading the House. I have checked this matter out—

Mr SPEAKER: Take your seat. There is no point of order.

Mr BEATTIE: Just as well that we do not have an IQ test. What those opposite do not want is the truth because what it says is this—

Opposition members interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: I indicate that the Premier has time to answer this question and I would like to hear him answer it for you.

Mr BEATTIE: Those opposite want to turn this place into a circus. Let me be frank about something—

Mr Seeney: Yeah, we’ve already got a clown.

Mr BEATTIE: We know where you fit into the circus. The former leader of the opposition has raised a serious issue about recycled water in London. I am trying to explain exactly what the government’s position is—

Mr Hobbs: Not true. Tell the truth about it. Tell the truth.

Mr SPRINGBORG: I rise to a point of order. We had a briefing from the Water Commission’s expert panel professor yesterday, Mr Greenfield, who said that they do not recycle one zack of their own water back into their own supply, not one zack.

Mr SPEAKER: Member for Southern Downs, if you continue to wilfully disregard my authority as Speaker you will be outside. I ask all members to respect and not disregard my authority as Speaker of this House. I will say to all of you, whichever side it is, if you continue to do it you will be outside in a hurry.

Extension of Time

Hon. RE SCHWARTEN (Rockhampton—ALP) (Leader of the House) (10.49 am): I move—
That the Premier be further heard.

Mr SPEAKER: It has been moved that the Premier be further heard.
Leave granted.


Mr BEATTIE: I make this point: it is very sad that on an issue of recycled water we cannot have a position where you can come in here and put your case and I can put my response. If you want to wreck this parliament, which is what you are doing—

Mr Springborg: Just give us a chance.

Mr BEATTIE: If the opposition parties want to wreck this parliament, you will destroy its credibility in the eyes of the community. It is about time you actually started to behave appropriately.

Mr SPRINGBORG: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Premier is deliberately distorting the privileges of this place. He knows we do not have the same opportunity that he does.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The member for Southern Downs will take his seat.

Mr BEATTIE: There is a 5.30 pm debate. You could have moved this as a motion for tonight. If you were still the Leader of the Opposition, you could have put this on tonight or you could have spoken to your successor.

Ms Bligh: He spoke yesterday in the Address-in-Reply!

Mr BEATTIE: Not only that, you spoke in the address-in-reply debate yesterday. You were in the parliament yesterday. I am simply trying to clarify the record so that your scaremongering goes nowhere, but you want to wreck the parliament. There used to be a time when the National and Liberal parties actually stood for the institution of parliament. People like Sir James Killen actually stood for something. All you do is stand for wrecking.

Honourable members interjected.

Mr SEENEY: I have a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr BEATTIE: Here it is again, Mr Speaker.

Mr Lucas interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the Minister for Transport and Main Roads to desist. Is this a point of order?

Mr SEENEY: Absolutely.

Mr SPEAKER: I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SEENEY: I think the Premier should look up the dictionary and find out what ‘plagiarism’ means. He is copying my speech from yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I say—

Mr SEENEY: I find his assertions—
Procedure—Speaker’s Ruling—Withdrawal of Disorderly Member

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sit down, please. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that I have already warned you. Under the provisions of standing order 253, having previously been warned, I now ask the member for Callide to withdraw from the chamber.

Mr LINGARD: On a point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: Excuse me! I am on my feet. I asked the member for Callide to withdraw from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 253.

Mr Seeney: Mr Speaker, with the greatest of respect—

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet and you will sit down. The wilful disregard for my authority as chair is about to finish. I have asked you to remove yourself from the chamber. If you do not remove yourself from the chamber, you will find yourself under standing order 254.
Whereupon the honourable member for Callide withdrew from the chamber.

Mr LINGARD: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I remind you that on the first occasion you warned the member for Callide for interjecting. The second time you warned him for taking a point of order. That is completely wrong. You might warn him twice for interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr LINGARD:—but the first time was for interjecting and the second time was for a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Take your seat, please.

Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, all I have tried to do this morning is explain what happens in London.

Mr Hobbs: Tell the truth!

Mr BEATTIE: Hang on. Wait a minute. I have the right to put a point of view and you have the right to disagree, but surely you should not wreck this place—

Mr LINGARD: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, when are you going to make the Premier speak to you directly rather than address all of us as ‘you’, ‘you’, ‘you’?

Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, I always speak through you and, if I have not, I offer my apologies to the chair.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Premier to ensure he constantly talks through the chair.

Mr BEATTIE: I will. Mr Speaker, let me try to explain what happens in London without the
scaremongering we have been having. Let me come—
Opposition members interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are continuing to have these constant interjections in the House. You are all parliamentarians from different parties, and I am asking for order. I do not want to go down the same track that I have with one member this morning, but if you continue to absolutely disrupt the business of this House that is what will happen. It is my absolute last resort. I have actually given a ruling today in that regard before. I call the Premier.

Mr BEATTIE: As I was saying, the Thames water report states that the River Thames is used as a disposable route for effluent from 350 waste water treatment plants, including some of the—

Opposition member interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: I think you should just keep going, Premier. I will warn the person who is interjecting. I do not know who it is at the moment.

Mr BEATTIE: That includes some of the largest in Europe. This is the important point: indirect reuse of treated effluent further downstream contributes about 12 per cent of the available resources for public water supply in an average year. This is what it does to London water. In other words, if you are in London and you are drinking water, in an average year you will drink 12 per cent. That is what happens in London. It goes into the river and it flows down the river and then different places extract the water and you drink it. That is how it works. However, in parts of the lower basin, that figure can rise to nearly 70 per cent during a dry summer. That is what happens in London. What we will be doing here is better than that because our reverse osmosis process will make it cleaner. It will make it better than that. When I ask, ‘Have you been to London and drunk the water?’ the answer is that, yes, you then you have drunk recycled water. If you go to Singapore, you will find that ours will be treated better than that in London. If you go to Washington, Berlin or the Orange County, you will find that ours will be treated better than their water. I just say to the former Leader of the Opposition that it is about time you told the truth about this. The reality is very clear. That is what the report says; it is black and white. As for the reverse osmosis process that will operate under our system, what happens in Singapore—and forget about London, because Singapore and our water will be better—

Mr Springborg: One per cent.

Mr BEATTIE: The former Leader of the Opposition says one per cent. Do members know what he is talking about? He is talking about what happens in Singapore, which is about to be increased, by the way.

Mr Springborg: To 2½.

Mr BEATTIE: Yes, that is right, to 2½ per cent, and thank you for making the point. The reality is this: where there is a reverse osmosis process and the water is treated, it does not matter whether it is one per cent, two per cent, three per cent or four per cent; it does not matter whether it is 95 per cent. If one per cent is good, it is all good. That is the point about reverse osmosis. The member’s point about one per cent does not matter. The member’s point about 2½ per cent does not matter. At the end of it all, you can say what you like about this because it is a democracy. But the truth is, Mr Speaker—and I want to be clear about this—people around the world drink it. Our water quality will be better than London’s. The only relevant point out of what was said by the former Leader of the Opposition—who wants to be a recycled Leader of the Opposition by the way he is going—is that in fact what happens in London will not be as good as what will happen here. Our water will be cleaner. I just say to Mr Springborg, the member for Southern Downs, and to all the other members who want to disrupt this: at the end of this, this is in the state’s interests. The water is safe, it is good quality and it will be better than what you are drinking now.

Mr DICKSON: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: the Premier is telling this parliament he is misleading parliament saying it is 100 per cent safe.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Can I just remind some of the new members from both sides who are here that a point of order does not allow you to debate the issue. It is open for debate if a motion is before the parliament. You are trying to debate the issue. There is no point of order. I call the Premier.

Mr BEATTIE: The final point I want to make is this.
Opposition members interjected.

Mr McARDLE: On a point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: Come on! Let’s just get on with the business.

Mr BEATTIE: I have two final points. If the opposition had not been disruptive, this would have been finished a long time ago. This is your question time. You are wrecking it. If you had let me finish, this would have been done. I just say two things in conclusion. Fish need not worry because their sex will not be changed by recycled water. I want to make that really clear. We do not need to put up a label saying, ‘Beware fish. Your gender will be changed.’ I want the former Leader of the Opposition to know that. We do not have to put up signs saying ‘Fish beware’, because their gender will not change. As for the new member representing the Sunshine Coast, your nonsense about AIDS and all the other things is irrelevant; it is just rubbish. Do not go out and scaremonger. It is not in the state’s interests.

Western Corridor Recycled Water Project

Mrs MILLER: My question is to the Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Infrastructure. I ask: can the minister update the House on progress with the western corridor recycled water project?

Ms BLIGH: I thank the honourable member for Bundamba for her interest in this issue generally and her interest specifically in the considerable amount of work that is now occurring in her electorate to make this pipeline a reality. The western corridor recycling pipeline project takes bulk water recycled from Luggage Point on Brisbane’s east to Caboonbah in the north-west. It involves the construction of three advanced water treatment plants—one at Bundamba, one at Luggage Point and one at Gibson Island. These will be state-of-the-art, world-class facilities in terms of the technology that they will be using. The overall length of the pipes is approximately 200 kilometres with a combined capacity to supply the water savings target of some 210 megalitres a day. Completion for the overall project remains on target for December 2008. This is a huge project. Just to give members a sense of the size of the effort, today there are 809 people employed on this pipeline project alone. By July that will peak at 2,650 workers on the project. There will be more than 1,000 workers in the electorate of the member who asked the question—at Bundamba alone—by July this year. The project reports that targets for recruitment are being met despite what everybody knows is a very tight labour market. We are well on track to making recycled water for industry, for drinking purposes and hopefully for agriculture as soon as possible. It is clear from the debate in the public arena and the debate here this morning that the success of this project is not going to be assisted by any intelligent contribution from those on the other side. I want to take the opportunity this morning to thank the member for Moggill for the leadership that he has shown on this issue. I know only too well that this is a tough issue on which the community has very mixed views and it requires a bit of backbone to stand up and talk about how necessary it is. That is what the member for Moggill has done. I know there has been a lot of criticism of his leadership from time to time. However, we have seen him stand up from day one and provide support and some real comfort from a scientific point of view to the community. That, however, does not represent the one team, one plan, one destiny approach that we have heard so much about. Honourable members have seen here this morning the member for Southern Downs—and they will have heard him yesterday— running around scaremongering. I am very sorry that the member for Moggill does not seem to be able to control his own backbench with the member for Kawana also jumping on the bandwagon. I do think it is important that people understand that there will be scaremongering on this. I draw to the attention of honourable members this document that says, ‘Think before you agree to drink’. This is the document that has been prepared by Councillor ‘Snow’ Manners from Toowoomba. I understand that he is hoping to distribute it across south-east Queensland. This is the document on which the member for Southern Downs presumably bases his wild claims about the sex changes of fish and further claims about endocrine disruption compounds. It is probably the most intellectually dishonest document I have seen.


Anonymous said...

Anna Bligh on Think Before You Drink:

"probably the most intellectually dishonest document I have seen".

Harsh but fair.

you know who said...

Anna Bligh on recycled water: "recycled water gives us a new source of water that is not dependent on rain".

Professor Cullen: "But the beauty of desalination is that it is independent of rainfall, unlike even recycling."

Who's fooling whom?

Stuart Khan said...

‘You Know Who’,

-actually I don’t have a clue ‘who’...Mum? Dad? Aunty Jenny? My old pal Anonymous?

Of course, the amount of water available to recycle depends on how much water arrives at the sewage treatment plant. This can be dependant on rainfall by two means.

The first is stormwater influx to sewers. This happens when people illegally connect stormwater drains to the sewers. It is a problem in some areas since it can cause sewers to overflow or treatment plants to be overloaded. Most cities work hard to minimise such illegal connections.

The second is when people reduce the flow of water to sewers because of water restrictions. By their nature, restrictions tend to have the greatest impact on water that would otherwise be used outside (hence doesn’t affect flows to sewers). However, many diligent people will also reduce indoor water use or even collect greywater for use on gardens.

So while the dependence on rainfall is rather indirect, Peter Cullen is technically correct.

You know who said...

Anna needs to get her facts right, even in parliament.

W F Blog said...

Sounds a bit like Toowoomba City Council meetings!!

Does Mr (Prof) Greenfield QWC say the London doesn't "recycle one zack"?

Both Greg Leslie and Law have been quoting much higher rates for Singapore - is it 1% going to 2.5%?

At least you treated the Manners and Dowson book with dignity. "Intellectually dishonest" is a bit harsh Anna. Honesty was never an issue with Mayor Thorley in the Toowoomba debate and Beattie's pledge of a plebiscite has an air of untruth about it.

Stuart Khan said...

G’day W.F.,

Since I wasn’t present at the meeting between Mr Springborg and Prof Greenfield, I can’t vouch for what was said. However, I think Springborg’s quote needs to be read in full:

“We had a briefing from the Water Commission’s expert panel professor yesterday, Mr Greenfield, who said that they do not recycle one zack of their own water back into their own supply, not one zack”.

A zack is not a unit of volume that I am familiar with, but the point of many such ‘unplanned’ or ‘incidental’ recycled water scenarios is that the population that produces the ‘recycled water’ is not normally the same population that consumes it. Water flows downstream from one population to the next. So taken perfectly literally, Springborg’s/Greenfield’s statement is accurate.

I think the Singapore situation is somewhat more complex than the way it is often portrayed. There are three recycling plants contributing to three reservoirs. Other reservoirs do not have any recycling plants at all. My understanding is that the figure that often gets quoted (1%) refers to an approximation of the total water supply. I could be slightly wrong about this, but that would mean that (some of) the three reservoirs receiving recycled water could be significantly greater than 1%. Of course, the proportion in any one reservoir also changes over time depending on relative volumes of runoff from other sources. I presume 1% is an annual average across the entire supply. I admit that I don’t know the details, but clearly it is more complex than the suggestion that all potable water in Singapore is 1% recycled. But what difference does it make? If recycled water is not safe, it would not be acceptable to recharge the water supply with any volume.

Regarding the Manners and Dowson book, I think anyone who reads my review can see that I strongly disagree with most of their implied claims. However, I do respect their right to be concerned and to express this. Furthermore, I recognise that their doubts about the safety of recycled water are a direct result of the scientific community having failed to adequately communicate otherwise. They are entitled to have their concerns addressed sincerely and comprehensively.

Greg said...

I,m still waitng for a list of all these cities that take there drinking water from rivers were effluent is dumped in them upstream! Waiting and waiting!

Stuart Khan said...


All??! I’m afraid you’re going to be waiting a very long time. I don’t recall having promised to provide that and I’m sure I never could.

However some obvious ones (for the sake of discussion) include London, Paris, Berlin, Memphis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Porto, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Adelaide and Rome. Its not unusual, its normal.

you know who said...

I think you're taking Greenfield's comments too literally. He may have meant 'their' as in 'UK water supply' not residents of this town or that town.

Stuart Khan said...

Well ‘You Know Who’,

IF either Greenfield or Springborg intended what you are suggesting, then they are wrong.

Politicians like Springborg tend to say things very deliberately. I don’t believe that the words “their own” are there by accident.

you know who said...

You are way over analysing the two words 'their own'. Surely there are more important issues in the debate.

Stuart Khan said...

Hello “You Know Who”.

There is really nothing to analyse. Am I really the only person here that can see that Springborg’s precise use of these words is absolutely intentional? Without them, his statement is plainly false (although it wouldn’t be the first time).

Regarding “more important issues”, I think I would be justified in suggesting that I have addressed many on this blog previously. However, I do think that this is an important issue. For Springborg to carefully plant the seed of doubt about IPR in London, is to intentionally mislead people into believing that the idea of drinking clean water that was previously sewage is untested. It is far from it and Springborg clearly knows it.

Robert said...

Stuart, have you heard about the possibility of Paris Hilton becoming a spokeswoman for the recycled water industry?

Stuart Khan said...

Paris who?

Robert said...

You REALLY need to get out of your lab. Maybe a trip to Bondi to check out the sewage outflows.

njta said...


Greg said...

Yes! Bravo for thinking it is okay for a city to dump its effluent into a river and that it is safe for a city downstream to then use that water for drinking. Bravo!

Stuart Khan said...


That’s what water treatment is all about. Cities spend millions of dollars per year cleaning up water and ensuring that it is safe, -both at sewage treatment plants and at drinking water treatment plants. If water didn’t get used more than once, in most of the cities that I listed above, there simply wouldn’t be enough to go around. Downstream water recycling may be an uncomfortable thought for many, but it’s a reality that we can either ignore or get used to.

Greg said...

Stuart if the city at the top of the river sytem were to use that recycled effluent for industrial use and then send the excess downhill via pipeline for the next city to do the same and so on there would be no wastage, no need for expensive drinking quality tests and treatments and nobody living uncomfortable.

Greg said...

Sorry forgot this on - the river system would obviously be cleaner as well.

Stuart Khan said...


You and I are completely on the same wavelength here. For example, the South Sydney Greens published a short article that I wrote in July 2005:

“A more intelligent approach to water recycling would be to continue working within the natural hydrologic cycle. Ideally, small-scale treatment plants would capture sewage upstream and prepare it for secondary non-potable uses. The process would be repeated multiple times until the water reached sea level. Each secondary use would replace water that would otherwise be sourced from fresh supplies. And each would make use of water that would otherwise be discharged to the environment.

This downhill water recycling would encourage the development of decentralised onsite water reuse systems. It would also facilitate the fit for purpose water supply concept. That is, water would be supplied for various applications at a quality guaranteed to be sufficient for an intended purpose, but no greater. By this means, water could be cascaded from applications requiring high water purity, down to less demanding uses, thus minimising necessary treatment processes in between. Water utilities could offer water of tailored quality to industry at prices reflecting the treatment standard”

Oh...and if you click on the link you can see me explaining the concept to NSW Minister Frank Sartor. I don’t think he ever quite got it!

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