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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 October 2010) . . Page.. 5124 ..

(b) fully engage the public in that process, separately and in addition to any public consultation conducted by the Authority;

(c) commission the necessary expert or professional advice to support its defence of the current diversion limit;

(d) commission an independent assessment of the impact of the proposed Basin plan on the net economic benefit of ACTEW Corporation’s current major water security projects separately and together and release that assessment publicly; and

(e) present a final draft report to the Assembly for debate prior to submitting the final report to the Authority; and

(3) support the ACT government’s submission once it has been debated and agreed.

Much has been said over the past three weeks in particular about the release of the guide to the proposed Murray-Darling Basin plan on 8 October and the subsequent release on 21 October of the technical background paper by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. The documents have been the subject of a great deal of criticism throughout the basin and across the nation. Local communities, farmers and business people are outraged over what they see as the most serious threat to confront their livelihood and the social and economic fabric of their communities.

The commonwealth government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, despite spending millions of dollars on research, have acknowledged that the plans have failed to take proper account of the social and economic impact on local communities in the basin and they have gone away to do more work.

Even the Prime Minister, who during the election campaign in a foolhardy moment said that she would do whatever the authority recommended sight unseen, has backed away from that proposed plan. I note that in a previous Assembly the Chief Minister in this place said that he would agree to the McLeod report into the operation of bushfires sight unseen, and he backed away from that plan as well.

The water minister, Tony Burke, has also back-pedalled on his early comments about the proposed plan. We now have Mr Burke seeking, obtaining and publishing legal advice that says that the Water Act requires the basin authority to look at other issues apart from the environmental issues. There is a great deal of discussion to be had across the basin about what the guide means, how it might be changed and what impact that will have on the draft and the final plans as they evolve over the next year and a bit.

But what of the impact of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin plan on the ACT? I have spoken in this place on a number of occasions in my career here on the importance of water, our responsibility to husband water in the basin in particular and the important role that the ACT plays being the largest population centre in the basin. As the only jurisdiction wholly within the basin, we have an important role to play.

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