Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; In Committee
I really have to support Senator Nash on this. The Nationals are asking the chamber to reinstate the 'up to' that was removed from the original bill. I was part of the inquiry into that piece of legislation and everyone was quite happy with the flexibility that 'up to' gave the states that are going to have to implement this piece of legislation on behalf of the Commonwealth. They were happy with that flexibility because everybody understood that science gets better and farming gets better. We are not irrigating now the way we irrigated 30 years ago. Our farms are incredibly efficient and we believe that we can make them more efficient. So what is the use of being prescriptive about a number and not allowing states, communities, farmers et cetera to exercise flexibility in how we achieve enough water for the environment? Through a lot of questioning right now, we do not know exactly how much water is required by each of these environmental assets at any one given time, so why be so prescriptive about a volume?
You mentioned the intent of the legislation. I understand the minister's intent is not to cause socioeconomic damage to basin communities, so why will he not allow his Senate colleagues to support National Party amendments which enshrine that intent in legislation? That is simply what we are trying to do today. I sat in the inquiries in which we were talking about 'up to'. I was part of the discussions which saw it very quickly removed from the legislation. I would like if, in addition to answering Senator Nash's question, you would answer mine: why did you remove 'up to'?