House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Questions without Notice


3:10 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

I welcome the question from the member for New England. I know his concern for his constituency and people who are doing it tough, particularly because of problems with the Murray-Darling system and the secure delivery of water to individual towns and areas within his electorate. I am not aware of the circumstances that concern that town. In response to the honourable member’s question I suggest that the parliamentary secretary now engage the honourable member on what can be done about his specific proposal. This side of the House seeks to engage other members when they come forward with a practical idea of how to fix X, Y and Z and A, B and C. The honourable member has come forward with an idea. I will have the parliamentary secretary investigate it to see whether we can do something about it that is practical and sustainable.

More broadly, the honourable member’s question goes to the challenge of the Murray-Darling Basin. As a country we are dealing with the fact that the Murray-Darling has in the last decade enjoyed perhaps less than half of its normal average inflow in terms of rain and over the last three to four years something like a quarter of its normal inflow. This has had a cumulative effect on the entire system. We see it right across the Murray-Darling system.

We had one set of events recently that concerned the release of water into South Australia by the government of New South Wales, which occurred through the new arrangements put in place by the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. We now have in place the decision-making mechanism, through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, to for the first time put a cap on the overall use of water in the system. We also have the capacity for the first time, from next year, in the history of the Murray-Darling for the federal water minister to have responsibility for setting that cap on a scientific basis. We also have for the first time the Australian government buying back water entitlements from what is a hugely taxed river system. From memory, we have purchased back some 780 gigalitres—am I right?


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