Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3109 ..
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (5.08): Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government will not be supporting this amendment simply because it would stop good management of our water resources. The problems that exist in New South Wales now are there because they do not have a system that meets the needs of the community. In New South Wales over years water licences have been overallocated, such that 115 per cent of the available waters in the Murrumbidgee have been allocated to water licences. The allocation system, on the other hand, will protect that; it will stop that. What it will mean is that we will have a system whereby water can be used wisely instead of being either locked up or lost.
The allocation system allows those who wish to expand into a business to take into account their water needs so that they can go out and secure those water needs. An individual that has an existing allocation will have to use the allocation wisely. If they wish to expand their business, they will have to either seek additional allocation from the Government or purchase it. Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a reasonable way to conduct this business. If we do not have it, we will undermine the fundamental good management of the water resources of the ACT. The Government does not support this amendment.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.10): Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to add a few words about the unwisdom, if there is such a word, of going down the path that has been suggested in this amendment. We need to ask ourselves, if we do not agree with the concept of water allocations, what is the alternative we propose. Ms Tucker and Mr Corbell are rejecting the allocation notion, which is now well entrenched in the management of water resources round Australia. It is used in every jurisdiction. The present form of those allocations is a result of agreements at national level through the Council of Australian Governments, admittedly, but there are - - -
Ms Tucker: You have evaluated it, you think it is a great success and it is working really well, is it?
MR HUMPHRIES: I did not hear all that; but, Mr Deputy Speaker, let me say that the system that works at the moment across the rest of Australia is based on the idea of valuing the asset through attaching a price to it and requiring people who have the asset to pay for the asset. You obtain the licence, you buy the licence, and if you want to transfer the licence to somebody else, obviously you are in a position to be able to sell it.
The idea of attaching monetary value to the water offends Ms Tucker because she sees it as some sort of community asset and allowing people to trade in the water offends against the idea of its being a community asset. That is a fine concept in very broad principles, but in reality there are millions of Australians out there in rural or semi-rural settings who use water in that way. If there is no value allocated to the water that they use, they simply are not likely to value it. They simply are not likely to value it in the same way. If they have unlimited access to water and there is no value attached to it, clearly that water stands at more risk of being wasted than would be the case if it was properly allocated and a value was attached to that allocation.