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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 5171..

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Water—Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Debate resumed.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (3.33): I thank Mrs Dunne for putting this motion to the Assembly this afternoon. As always in significant matters such as water security for the ACT and for the sustainable future of the Murray-Darling Basin, the devil is in the detail of what is being proposed. Obviously, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is concerned under its charter with the sustainability of the basin as a whole. The ACT too is concerned about that broader issue, but we also have an obligation to ensure that questions about the sustainability of the territory and its contribution to environmental flows in the basin are properly taken into account.

There is no doubt that as a country we need to ensure the sustainability of the basin as an important environmental asset, as a productive agricultural bowl for Australia and the world and as a place where over 2.1 million people live and from which a further 1.3 million draw their water. There is no dispute by the ACT that more water needs to be returned to the basin's environment. There are, however, specific ACT issues with how the guide proposes the eventual plan will be developed, the scientific basis for calculating the water use in the ACT, both as a raw figure and in comparison to other parts of the Murrumbidgee catchment and wider basin, and how we can manage our way out of the fundamental issues of over-allocation by state governments and the impending effects predicted for climate change that need to be taken into account.

For the ACT I have already, as the responsible minister, raised a significant number of issues with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. These include the late release of supporting data to enable an assessment of the information used by the authority. This data was only released late last Friday afternoon, almost two weeks after the release of the initial basin guide. I have raised the issue of the authority's advice to the territory of the exclusion of the ACT from social-economic analysis because the ACT biased the results too much if included in the authority's model. I find this very difficult to understand. Why would the basin authority exclude the ACT from the social-economic analysis because our results biased the outcomes? It is quite extraordinary when you consider that the territory and Canberra, the national capital, the seat of government, is the largest single urban settlement in the basin.

I have also raised with the authority the territory's concerns about the proposed sustainable diversion limit targets that will only be possible with stage 3 and stage 2 temporary water restrictions. I have raised with the authority the fact that there is no recognition in their proposals of the successful water management in the ACT that sees the water savings targets proposed being exceeded by the territory. There is no consideration of the ACT's actions to limit water use, which are equal to commonwealth and state actions to buy water for return to the environment and these purchases will be recognised to alleviate reductions in catchments.

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