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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 August 2007) . . Page.. 2383 ..

Thursday, 30 August 2007

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Murray-Darling Basin Agreement Bill 2007

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra–Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (10.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Murray-Darling Basin agreement promotes and coordinates effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of water, land and other environmental resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. The commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia established the agreement in 1985 and Queensland joined in 1996.

In 1997 the ACT sought and received from the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council agreement for ACT participation in the Murray-Darling Basin initiative. At that time it was agreed “that the nature and extent of the ACT’s future participation and involvement could be adequately covered by a memorandum of understanding”. A memorandum of understanding was subsequently signed in March 1998.

The MOU made provision for participation in programs that are relevant to the ACT, participation in ministerial council and commission meetings by ACT representatives, and set a framework for financial contribution to the initiative.

The MOU specifically excluded the ACT from any involvement in or liability in respect of water management activities conducted by the commission through River Murray Water in the River Murray and Lower Darling River. However, the major shortcoming of the memorandum of understanding was the limited provision for the ACT’s participation in ministerial council and commission decisions. Both the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council and commission are consensus based forums with matters being agreed unanimously, effectively giving each jurisdiction a veto. The ACT participated in discussions but not in any decisions. Thus, the ACT had no right to veto a proposal. On the other hand, the ACT was not bound by the decisions of the council.

The Murray-Darling Basin agreement makes provision for the accession of new parties and specifies that the terms and conditions of participation of new parties will be set out in a schedule to the agreement. The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council agreed to full ACT membership on 19 May 2006. This is incorporated in the

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