House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023


Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023; Second Reading

4:43 pm

Photo of Matt BurnellMatt Burnell (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

When the debate on this bill was adjourned, I was talking about the member for Riverina and his constant insistence on being perceived as the elder statesman of debates like this. I'm sure he longs for the National Party of old, whatever that means. Right now, could there be a 're-Joyce'? It's always possible. Either way there's 'Little-to-be-proud' of and they're stuck in a 'Pitt of despair'.

The member for Riverina rightly mentioned that the member for Watson was indeed the minister responsible for the plan a bit over a decade ago now. The member for Watson was the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities in the Gillard Labor government. In researching the plan, I came across comments the member for Watson made regarding cooperative federalism in Australia with river systems, and they really struck a chord with me. The member for Watson noted that, for a number of decades, policymakers had allowed the Murray-Darling Basin to be governed as though rivers would respect state boundaries, but in the end we must have this legislation pass as a means to hit reset and return the system to something that is a bit closer to the vision the member for Watson and the Gillard government had for the basin all those years ago. It's a bit cliched to use this line: the best-laid plans do not survive contact with the enemy. But what if the enemy were part of a government which allowed it carte blanche to dismantle that policy almost entirely over nine long years? You'd make some alterations to that policy to allow more time for it to work. You'd allow more options through which to achieve the aims of that policy. You'd allocate additional sources of funding towards achieving those aims and you'd certainly put more accountability in the system. This bill does all of those things.

In closing, especially with water, we stand up for ourselves quite vocally, as we aren't particularly used to those others stepping in to stand up for South Australia. When we just want to be included in the conversation at times, to be remembered, we have a government that wants to stand up for Australia. I commend this bill to the House.


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