Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2481 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The Government has argued that the use of water allocations, in combination with a licence system and the use of environmental flow guidelines, would provide the greatest possible level of environmental protection. I feel that this position fails to recognise that the water allocation proposal is closely tied to provisions to allow for the trading and sale of such allocations and that this area has received no attention in the majority report. Yet I believe it is the one which poses the most significant potential change to the management of, and the demand for, the Territory's water resources. I am concerned that in their deliberations a majority of committee members, with all due respect, did not give consideration to this.
Mr Speaker, let me outline to you the sorts of possibilities I am concerned about which have led me to put forward this dissenting report in relation to the sale and trading of water allocations. I am concerned that we could see a situation, particularly but not necessarily under a franchise arrangement and under the privatisation model, where the creation of a tradable market in water could result in the Territory's water being seen as a very marketable commodity.
Its quality and its level of treatment are very high compared to many other jurisdictions in Australia, and as a result there is a risk that its quality, its potential and its treatment could result in a higher price in a competitive water market and a private operator may well seek to sell water outside of the Territory, with the result that the supply available for Canberra itself could be diminished. This presents a real possibility that other population centres may choose to take water from Canberra and may choose to buy water from Canberra and postpone the necessary infrastructure work they should be required to undertake to satisfy their own water requirements. They may choose to draw on the Territory's supply instead and undermine the ability of the Territory to meet its own future water needs. Mr Speaker, it does not take much imagining to see that the consequences of this situation occurring should be a cause for very serious concern.
I believe that the provisions of the Water Resources Bill, in relation to allowing for trade in water allocations, should be of significant concern for all Canberrans. The level of uncertainty surrounding the development of a tradable water allocations regime is simply too great to be accepted in the straightforward way that it has been in the majority report. The consequences of this approach, I believe, risk the effective and safe management of the ACT's water supply into the future. For that reason I am unable to support the majority report's recommendation in this regard.
MS TUCKER (4.04): I have had only a short time to look at this report, but already I can say clearly that I will be supporting Simon Corbell's dissenting report. I am concerned that we have not seen the issues that I raised addressed.
Mr Hird: Surprise, surprise.
MS TUCKER: I hear, "Surprise, surprise" over the floor from Mr Hird. That is a really silly thing to say, Mr Hird. I have been raising concerns about this water issue for some time.