Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3100 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
The Commonwealth city is going to practically create a million or more new Australians and it wants to make them of a hardy race such as Australia may be proud of in the future. All the existing great cities of the coast of this continent lie low on the hot muggy relaxing atmosphere of the coast. All the world over it is known that the man who comes of twenty generations of mountaineers is far more than a match for the representative of twenty generations of dwellers on a steaming coast.
To all those who complain about Canberra's winters, you did not know you had it so good. Mr Deputy Speaker, I mention all of this in relation to this Bill because of the third criterion which was considered to be of equal importance as the other two, namely, an adequate water supply. Almost as soon as the search began for a suitable site a severe drought afflicted most of New South Wales, with the result that an assured water supply came to be considered vital. The early front runner for the national capital, Albury, was rejected on the basis of this factor alone.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the limestone plains did not become a serious contender until very late in the piece. The Canberra site did not originally include water catchment areas to the west of the Murrumbidgee but these were eventually added to combat criticism from The Bulletin that the Cotter River would provide Canberrans with "only a hatful of water to drink" and from Victorians who preferred Dalgety as it was much closer to Melbourne. Prime Ministers Watson and Deakin supported our area and eventually pushed through a deal with the New South Wales Government. The district was surveyed by Scrivener in 1909, after which it became the national capital, based in no small part on the fact that it had access to, and the assurance of, a lot of good-quality water.
I agree with the Minister that the ACT has few natural resources and that the Territory's water resources are among our most significant. To that end I support the intention of the Bill to protect this valuable resource and to ensure its availability for generations to come. There have been large parts of this Bill that I have struggled with, Mr Deputy Speaker, as other members have. The system of water allocations has caused me a lot of concern, as has the level of the various fees which are intended, and the interaction that the legislation would have with rural lessees, especially in regard to their transition to 99-year rural leases.
I am pleased that the Bill has already been looked at by the Urban Services Committee and some of the uncertainty about its application has been addressed. However, I am not yet satisfied that enough of the uncertainty has been taken away, especially certain aspects of the Bill as they would apply to rural lessees, and I would like to hear some assurances from the Minister before we vote today.
I do not find it acceptable that we are expected to pass this Bill with there still being no word from the Government on the level of the licence fees which they intend to charge. I appreciate that any fees intended to be charged will automatically come before the Assembly for approval. However, I believe that those who will be affected by those fees have a right to know, before the Bill is passed, how the Government intends those fees to impact on their business.