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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3110 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

As I understand Ms Tucker's proposal, if she says that trading in water allocations should not be possible, then it follows that people who cannot use the water that they are allocated will simply have to leave it in the ground or on the surface, wherever it might come from at the present time. So, you have a situation where landowner A has surplus water and landowner B has inadequate water. Logically you would expect that, in a trading environment, landowner A would sell his water to landowner B, but in the proposals Ms Tucker has put forward there is no incentive for landowner A to transfer water to landowner B if there is no monetary value attached to it. Of course, you could get a black market in water. If you have an unrealistic structure for water allocation in Australia, you will end up with a black market in water to the extent that that is possible.

But, Mr Deputy Speaker, that makes very little sense. I cannot see the argument for creating a model in the ACT which is different from the models in other parts of Australia, which is not tested in other parts of Australia and which puts us at odds in a serious way when so much water flows through the ACT and we have obligations to other jurisdictions, particularly New South Wales and other members of the Murray-Darling Basin initiative. I think it is a mistake to assume that we can magically adopt some new and idealistic way of dealing with water which fails to reflect the actual value that we place on the water through this allocation system.

I think we have to get Australians to value water, to treat it as a scarce resource. One way of doing that is to say that you have an allocation pertaining to your licence to sink a bore, to take water from a dam or whatever and to attach a monetary value to that so that wasting of that water becomes not just a waste of water but comes at a monetary penalty in certain circumstances. That is why this system of water allocations has been developed and why we should support its being applied in the ACT, as it is applied in other jurisdictions including Labor States around Australia which are quite happy to work with this allocation system.

MS TUCKER (5.15): I would like to reply. I am sorry that I did not hear Mr Rugendyke or Mr Osborne speak. I will call a division on this amendment, because I think it is very important to understand where members sit and vote on this issue. I would like to respond to a couple of comments. The statement that it is impossible to develop a responsible water management process without putting a monetary price on it, with the obvious inherent risks of the profit motive coming into how water is managed, is a statement that does not hold up at all. In fact, the ACT is different from the States at the present time, as we well know anyway. I repeat that I do not believe that we have the technology to understand what the environmental flow should be. There is nothing wrong with having more water running in the river than is actually being used.

What we are asking for here is a precautionary principle, and I repeat that. The States, as we have already heard, have not worked out how to do it properly. We are told that, because everyone else is doing it, this is the way to manage water. I am looking for an evaluation of how it is working and how our environment is faring under this new model and I do not believe that we have that at this point. I know that there are critics of it.

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