Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; Consideration in Detail
The opposition does not agree with or accept these amendments. There are a series of reasons why. The first one is that the express inclusion of particular environmental works is a political statement, not a legislative statement, and it is not an appropriate item to have in such legislation. It effectively breaches the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, or express inclusion of one to the deliberate exclusion of another. It is poor legislative practice and it implies that these are the activities that will occur, when in reality there are numerous other activities that may provide appropriate savings in terms of environmental irrigation, on-farm irrigation and interfarm irrigation. So it is poor legislative practice.
The next reason is to do with amendment (3), which involves a very substantive issue. The original legislation included the words 'up to' in relation to the 450 gigalitres. This was the government's own legislation, the government's own policy, the government's own proposal. And we took them at their word. In fact, only today the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia put out a statement, which had unanimous agreement, saying:
The Committee does not agree with the recommendation made by the Senate Committee … to establish a mandatory recovery target of 450GL.
It went on to say:
The program established by the Special Account is entirely voluntary. To establish a mandatory recovery target of 450GL as recommended by the Senate would establish a quasi-compulsory program which the Committee is strongly opposed to.
Signatories to that included the member for New England, the member for Bendigo, the member for Hunter, the member for Capricornia and the member for McEwen. It will be an interesting test to see how each of those members, having made that statement but a few hours ago, votes on a completely contrary amendment from the government.
Finally, in relation to the critical items which we oppose, there is a bizarre situation where amendment (4) would remove the ability to increase the size of dams to deliver environmental water as a relevant element in this consideration. That is contrary to common sense. It is contrary to good practice. It is counterintuitive. It makes it harder, rather than easier, to achieve the shared goals. For those reasons we will not be supporting these amendments.