House debates

Monday, 18 October 2010

Questions without Notice

Murray-Darling Basin

2:56 pm

Photo of Sophie MirabellaSophie Mirabella (Indi, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. I refer to the Murray-Darling Basin plan, which suggests effective cuts of 71 per cent to irrigators in the Ovens catchment in my electorate. Given the fact that about 95 per cent of catchment water already flows back into the basin, how can the government justify gutting this irrigation entitlement by such a devastating amount when it represents less than one per cent of total inflows?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Indi for the question. She was referring to a copy of the draft plan. The draft plan has not been produced. The draft plan comes out next year. It is a statutory document that gets followed by 16 weeks of consultation. What is happening in advance of that is a guide to what they think they might put in the draft of the plan. That is the way the independent authority have chosen to do it. There is a long period of consultation that goes through in all of this, and I will not be telling an independent authority from the sidelines what they should and should not do. What people need to understand with all of this is that, if the option is that people want to argue that somehow the river system is healthy and water reform is not required, they would find very few people willing to say that that was a sensible position. Reform is never easy; reform is difficult. But what we have to deal with here is a situation where, first of all, any reductions that happen through purchases happen only from willing sellers. If you do not want to sell your water, the government does not want to buy it. We have the extra addition to what is being done with efficiencies, whether it is centralised irrigation efficiency, on-farm irrigation efficiency or all the works and measures to more effectively manage the environmental resources up and down the basin. There is a long period of consultation between now and then, and the government will not adjudicate point by point on the work that is being done properly by the independent authority.