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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3108 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

As I said in my earlier speech, I do not believe that the management of water should be left to the market. It should be a government responsibility, because it is an essential service and also because water supply is a natural monopoly and can never be a totally competitive market as the supply of water is physically restricted to particular catchment areas. Water is a very precious resource. It needs to be managed on a sustainable basis and not be subject to commercial imperatives to sell more and more water.

I also do not think enough work has been done by State governments in the Murray-Darling Basin on how the interstate trade in water will work in practice to avoid any negative environmental impacts. We have just had Mr Smyth actually acknowledging that totally and trying to reassure us by telling members that in December there will be a meeting and it is on the agenda to talk about how we will manage water and interstate management of environmental flows. My question has to be: Why are we debating this legislation before that has been worked out to our satisfaction? As I also pointed out in my speech, which Mr Smyth did not acknowledge, I do not believe that the technical expertise is there yet to be definite about what the environmental flow should be anyway. So, it is certainly not the argument put by Mr Smyth that, in fact, it is up to the Assembly and therefore we should all feel very confident. I will not go through my whole speech again, but I have outlined why I do not believe that that is appropriate.

MR CORBELL (5.06): Mr Deputy Speaker, the Labor Party will be supporting this amendment, as we will other consequential amendments and, of course, amendment No. 7, which, as Ms Tucker has indicated in her explanatory memorandum, deals with the deletion of provisions for water allocations. Mr Deputy Speaker, we share the concern that Ms Tucker has in relation to the placement of water into, basically, a competitive market and the sale and trading of water. We do not believe that it is an appropriate course of action in dealing with the management of the Territory's water resources.

I do not think that claims that Labor governments of previous Assemblies have entered into COAG arrangements have much weight in this debate. The bottom line is that the Council of Australian Governments has implemented a number of important reforms, but that does not mean that we should simply accept every agreement from a Council of Australian Governments meeting and subsequent negotiations at their face value. We should closely scrutinise the implications of all decisions made at Council of Australian Governments level. We should ensure that they are still in the best interests of the Territory. As a parliament we have an obligation to do that, and that is why we are here.

The Labor Party has considered very carefully the issue of water allocations, and we are not confident that it is in the best interests of the Territory to enter into such a regime. We are not confident that it will protect the best interests of managing the Territory's water resources. We are greatly concerned that it will place the management of these sorts of resources into a competitive market, with the subsequent risk of market failure and the other consequences of such a regime. So, we will be supporting consequential amendments and the key amendment - amendment No. 7.

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