Thursday, 7 February 2013
Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012; In Committee
I move Nationals amendment (4) on sheet 7336:
(4) Schedule 1, item 2, page 8 (after line 36), after section 86AE, insert:
86AEA Limit on purchase of water access rights
The total amount of water access rights purchased by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth since 2009, whether with amounts debited from the Water for the Environment Special Account or otherwise for the purposes of the Basin Plan, must not exceed 1500 gigalitres.
This is about reinforcing the coalition's strong belief in the buyback cap. The buyback cap, as we have always stated, should be at 1,500 gigalitres. Buyback is distinctly different to the gains made from infrastructure or environmental works and measures. There is currently only about 250 gigalitres to purchase to get to that 1,500-gigalitre cap. Most of it has already been purchased.
We note that the real economic problems that happen always happen by reason of people buying the water licences out of areas. We have walked down the path of being good citizens in trying to bring about an environmental outcome but we are not going to do it at the expense of the communities of people who live in the area. You can see today with the discussions of the development of the north, trying to make sure we get a northern development area, we do not want to do that and then all of a sudden forget about the south. We have a widely developed irrigation area in the Murray-Darling Basin. The actual purchase of raw water licences, general buyback, causes immense economic hardship. We want to make sure that we limit that and that the efficiencies, the delivery back to the system, come from environmental works and measures in such things as deeper ring tanks, use of laterals, use of trickle, more efficient delivery of water. That is where the gains are made—from weirs that give us the capacity to make water more of an environmental asset with less water because we do not have to wait for a spill event; we can actually create a weir that allows a spill event with the use of far less water. These are the things that we believe are important. I think it is absolutely prescient that the public clearly understand that the coalition's policy is the cap at 1,500 gigs. Most of that has already been purchased. We only have about 249 gigs to go.