House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Questions without Notice

Murray-Darling Basin

2:39 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Last week, after a century of disagreement between governments, the government presented the final plan for the Murray-Darling Basin. What are the implications for basin reform if the plan is disallowed in either house of parliament?

2:40 pm

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 Hindmarsh for the question. The plan was tabled in the parliament at five o'clock yesterday afternoon and became immediately available for disallowance. Overnight a disallowance motion was moved in the Senate by the Greens Senator Hanson-Young and was moved in this house by the member for Riverina and seconded by the member for Murray.

There is a report which has come online, on the adelaidenow website, by Mark Kenny over the last hour-and-a-half or so which indicates that the coalition as a party will not be supporting disallowance of the plan and will be supporting the additional 450 gigalitres. I want to acknowledge that and welcome that. What that means is that we now have a situation where Australians know, basin communities know and people who care about the Murray-Darling Basin know what the Murray-Darling Basin plan will be, what the approach will be—and they are in no doubt that the basin will be restored to health. They are in no doubt now that for the first time in a century the national approach to the basin that always should have been there will now be there, is now law and will remain law.

It will be the case that members of this parliament will be asked to vote on the disallowance motion that has been moved by the member for Riverina and seconded by the member for Murray. So I should make clear to the House, in answer to the question for the member for Hindmarsh, exactly what disallowance would mean, because it is a similar message for senators dealing with the Hanson-Young resolution. Once disallowed, the plan loses all force of law immediately. It can be reintroduced six months later, but only in an identical form, which would then mean that, if disallowance were successful in either house, the entire process which has been going on since the last election would need to recommence from scratch. Effectively, we would be looking at a situation where the reform—long-awaited and built on over decades—would come to nothing.

I have to say that there are some members of the House who have always opposed basin reform and are at least, I guess, being consistent in that view. But I do have to take issue with the attitude that the Greens have taken on this—in the name of the environment. There would be nothing worse for the Murray-Darling Basin than for this plan to be thrown out. There is nothing good for the environment in the approach that the Greens are taking on this issue. There is no doubt that if the Greens were successful in this part of the campaign the next drought would look exactly like the last drought looked. We would see a system approach drought with no level of resilience at all. The members of this House who have committed to reform are on the right side of history on this issue and are making sure that a much-needed reform will serve the basin well into the future.