Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Bills

Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012; In Committee

9:57 am

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I move Nationals amendment (1) on sheet 7302:

(1) Schedule 1, item 10, page 9 (after line 35), after section 23B, insert:

23C Achievement of reductions in long-term average sustainable diversion limit

  Any reduction in the long-term average sustainable diversion limit for the water resources of a particular water resource plan area may only be achieved through the purchase of water access rights if the purchase of those rights will not cause apparent social or economic detriment to the district in the Murray-Darling Basin from which the water is retrieved.

We have only put up one amendment, and it goes to the nub of the issue, which is the utmost concern for the 2.2 million people who live in the basin. In respect and in balance to an environmental outcome, we need the triple bottom line to be enshrined in the legislation and definitive. It is vitally important that we recognise that if this goes wrong we do have the capacity as it currently stands to destroy towns, to take away their economic lifeblood so that they collapse.

As I said in my opening speech, the picture we have in our minds is not even so much of the irrigators; it is of the people who live in a house on a street and who are looking to us to make sure that their economic base is protected. They do not get compensated if this goes wrong. These are people who have paid off their houses, who have done the diligent thing, who have done what the Australian public have asked and moved west to be a mechanic or a schoolteacher or a labourer; they have built their life up in one of these regional towns—and there are 2.2 million of these people. We must make sure that their economic and social fabric is maintained and that we do not devastate their lives, because they have as much right as the environment. I think that the purpose of this parliament is primarily to protect the rights of people, and these people certainly have rights.

This is a definitive statement of trying to make sure that, in any move you make, you must look at the social and economic outcomes of removing water from that district. There must not be an apparent social detriment. We always know there could be some form of detriment, but it must not be so apparent that it becomes quite obvious that you have affected the social and economic future of that town—whether it is Collarenebri or St George, Berry or Mildura. These people have done what our nation has asked of them and, therefore, we must respect that by dealing with the aspects that are pertinent to the river. We have proved our credentials there by, under the last days of the Howard government, putting $10 billion on the table to try and remedy the environmental outcomes.

If we want to maintain the respect of the Australian people, we must make sure we protect them from unreasonable social and economic detriment. What this basically says is that we have all these clauses in there about environmental neutrality, about protecting the environment. We have stated over and over again, ad nauseam, about the worth and benefit of the environment. The Australian people, particularly those 2.2 million who live in the basin, are worthy of at least one amendment that definitively spells out their rights, that they are not going to be the casualties of any actions by this government, or a future government, and that they can rely on one clause that says, 'You can’t do that to our town because it is protected within the legislation—it is outside the law—therefore, you must not do it.'

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