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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1440 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

out of the Murrumbidgee River downstream from the ACT. The Greens do not believe that the availability of water should be handed over so completely to the marketplace and that private companies with commercial objectives should be making decisions which affect the health of our rivers and the availability of water to the community.

This whole Bill is really an attempt to integrate environmental and social concerns into the free market concept as applied to water, and we have grave doubts about how this attempt will work in the real world. There are still many issues to be resolved in managing water this way. For example, how do we ensure that sufficient flows are maintained in our rivers to protect the aquatic ecosystems? The issue of how interstate trading in water will work in practice has also still to be resolved. I am certainly not prepared to support this Bill in its current form until much more thought is given to determining the best way of managing water use to reduce environmental impacts and to ensure the equitable distribution of water across competing uses.

I have prepared a number of amendments to the Bill to remove all references to establishing a water market, leaving the control of water to be handled solely by the proposed licensing system. I think that such a regulatory system will work much more effectively in achieving the objectives of the Bill. I am glad that Mr Corbell has also referred my amendments to the committee to be considered alongside the Bill.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (11.36): Mr Speaker, in the absence of the Minister, I will respond. The Government will obviously not be opposing the referral of the Bill to the committee, but I am pleased to take on board Mr Corbell's assurance and Mr Hird's assurance that the committee will look at this Bill very quickly. Mr Corbell made it clear that this Bill has been around for quite a long time. Comments by others, however, seem to have suggested that there has not been time for consultation on this Bill.

As we all know, this Bill has been around for a very long time. In fact, those members who were part of the last Assembly will remember that we came very close to passing it in the last Assembly. An agreement was reached not to put it through at that time but an agreement was reached, as I understand it, to set a timeframe so that it would be put through this year simply because of requirements under national agreements. I hope that those requirements or those obligations that the ACT has can be met. I hope that the significant amount of community consultation being done by the Government, by the departments, by community groups and so on can be put to good use and an outcome can be reached as quickly as possible.

As Mr Corbell rightly said, this Bill going through the Assembly is only the first stage of what is quite a long process in putting together regulations. The ACT, on my understanding, is behind other States in this area, so we have quite a significant amount of evidence from other States on the best way forward.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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