Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3364 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The Murray River is dying from its mouth up. It is essentially dead for a thousand kilometres from Adelaide. The health of the river can be viewed through the effect of the level of salt within the system; the lack of water, particularly on the riverine systems, the ecology and the agricultural land that abuts it; and, most significantly, of course, the water supply for the city of Adelaide.
I think the number one issue facing us is a political issue-an issue of will, a determination by governments to combine to seriously pursue issues around restoring environmental flows to the system. That is an issue, of course, that underpins all the work of the Wentworth group. How does one go about that; how do we address the issues of salinity; how do we address the issues of environmental flow; and how do we get the balance right between the social, the economic and the environmental requirements of entire communities.
How do we achieve a reduction in irrigation? How do we buy back water rights from those that irrigate from the Murray, or the rights that they use which they claim some proprietorial interest in? How is this to be achieved? Do we buy them back and what are the implications of the social impacts of that, acknowledging that there is an environmental benefit to be obtained in reducing the amount of water taken for irrigation but there is a related social impact that the communities and towns that are built around those thriving agricultural communities would suffer? The towns would die, with all that that means in a social sense and, of course, in terms of the economies of all of the towns of the Murrumbidgee and Murray irrigation areas.
So the issues are essentially around political will, how to ensure appropriate environmental flows, how not to impact upon the non-environmental values that are so important to all Australians and all individuals, and how to ensure sustainable use of water from the system into the future.
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I am glad to see that the Chief Minister has read the document, but I do not think he has really answered my question. Tomorrow, Chief Minister, when you go to COAG will you exercise sufficient political will, in the words of the blueprint, to rise to the challenge, even if that means breaking ranks with other Labor governments?
MR STANHOPE: One of the issues, of course, for COAG and for all of us in relation to the issue around water and the Murray-Darling catchment is the recent, paltry offer and the lack of leadership that we have from the federal government. Mr Howard has stumped up with an offer of $125 million. $125 million in the context of the damage and the degradation which the Murray-Darling system has suffered is almost derisory.
Mrs Dunne: Mr Speaker, I take a point of order under both standing orders 118 (a) and 118 (b). What he is saying is not to the point and he is debating the issue. The point was: what will he do, not what Mr Howard is supposed to have done.
MR SPEAKER: Come to the point of the question, Mr Stanhope.
MR STANHOPE: Thank you. I think what I need to do at the meeting is point out to the Prime Minister that his offer of $125 million is paltry and derisory. What I will do at