House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Statements on Indulgence

Regional Australia Committee

11:54 am

Photo of Steve GibbonsSteve Gibbons (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Madam Deputy Speaker, on indulgence—I wish to correct a mistake I made in my valedictory speech last week. I omitted to mention David Kennedy as an important member of my staff. David, as some of you would know, was once the federal member for Bendigo and then represented Bendigo in the state parliament. I wanted to acknowledge his help. I also wanted acknowledge the help that Peter Thompson and Morna Whiting have been to me over the eight years I have stayed with them.

I also speak in support of the work of the Standing Committee on Regional Australia. I endorse the comments made by the chair, and I agree that the inquiry into the impact of the guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was particularly gruelling. Participating in that inquiry was certainly a character-building exercise. As the chair said, we toured extensively in northern New South Wales in January amongst the dust and the flies. We took some valuable evidence and met a lot of very dedicated people, and it reinforced to me that some of the best environmentalists in Australia happen to be farmers. I have no hesitation in saying that, simply because they understand the environment better than most—quite often their livelihood depends on it. As I said, it was a character-building exercise and well worth pursuing. We were able to make some major changes to the government's legislation, and I think the chair should take a bow for that.

There were two other inquiries. Firstly, the inquiry into certain matters relating to the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a follow-up inquiry that led to two amendments to the Water Act to provide a sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism. We are all pretty proud of that. Secondly, the inquiry into the Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012, which responded to a recommendation made by the committee to provide community certainty on the issue.

The other inquiry that was quite time consuming was the inquiry into fly-in fly-out work practices. That issue has presented some real problems for a lot of small communities. Having an invasion, if you like, of 2,000 or 3,000 extra workers descend on a small community for two or three weeks and then go away again puts enormous strain on the resources available in those communities, such as local government, health and those sorts of things. It was a worthy inquiry with some really good recommendations.

I, too, would like to acknowledge the work of the secretary, Glenn Worthington; Siobhan Leyne, Casey, Daniel, Katrina and Emily Costello. The committee has been served very well by these people. They are very capable, very dedicated and provided the committee with some superb advice.


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