Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bills

Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; In Committee

10:31 am

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | Hansard source

It is not a waste of time, however, to go through the proper processes of this parliament. That is exactly what we are meant to be here for. If you want us to come in here and just rubber-stamp things, then we might as well just abolish the whole damn process. This process is actually where we go through the detail of the legislation; this process is where all senators get the opportunity to ask you questions about how clauses in the legislation will work and how this legislation will be applied—and there will be other issues that crossbenchers and others will no doubt wish to ask questions on as well.

I have asked some of the officials sitting in the advisers' box next to you questions about this during the Senate inquiry and I have heard the answers they have given. I have tried to ask ever more leading questions in terms of how this is meant to work because they have given answers to these questions previously. Today all we are wanting is to get on the parliamentary record your answers to the same level of detail that officials in the Senate inquiries or behind closed doors have been willing to give so that the information is on the record for all to see and for all to ultimately hold the government to account should there be something in the bill that has not been foreseen. So I really would appreciate it if you were able to look at the detail of the bill and very clearly explain it for the record.

Maybe I have misinterpreted the advice I have heard along the way and, if I have, then tell me that this buyback provision is more open-ended than I had thought, at which point you will create all manner of concern in certain communities. But if this buyback provision is not open-ended, and you have said that general tenders could not occur under it—and you gave a clear answer to that and that will be very welcome—does that mean that targeted tenders could occur? Could any type of tenders occur? Or, as I have been led to believe, are the only sorts of buybacks that could occur either those that occur in tandem with infrastructure projects or those that are signed off by a state government? Please consult with the advisers and see whether you can give an answer that might allow us to just move on from this to the next issue. I am not asking you to predict the future; I am simply asking you to say very clearly what this legislation will allow Commonwealth money to be expended on when it comes to buybacks.

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