Page 227 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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In terms of the valuation of the Snowy scheme, the 13 per cent holding of the commonwealth is worth just on $400 million—$400 million that I believe has been ripped off the people of the ACT. There is no doubt in my mind that we have been, just as we have in relation to a whole raft of commonwealth-retained land within the territory. The position of the Snowy Mountains Authority is, essentially, the same as that which pertains to commonwealth-owned land throughout the territory, land which was retained in 1989 by the commonwealth for commonwealth purposes and which the commonwealth has now concluded it no longer requires for commonwealth purposes and disposes of to suit the needs of its own budget, land which quite clearly in a moral sense should be handed straight to the ACT government.

I believe that it is vitally important that, in arrangements that are made with a privatised owner of the Snowy hydro, the ecological and environmental integrity of the catchment is maintained, enforced. I am particularly pleased that at this stage the governments of New South Wales and Victoria have committed $30 million each to environmental enhancement within the Snowy catchment and I look to the commonwealth to match that. I think that it will be a travesty if the commonwealth, with its portion of the sale, does not commit the lot to the Murray-Darling Basin. That would be my hope. I have not made formal representations to that effect, but I would hope that the commonwealth, with the $390 million to $400 million which it will take from its share, a share which I believe it does not in any moral sense have a claim or right to, will be now fully and wholly devoted to the Murray-Darling Basin.

DR FOSKEY: If we had had that 13 per cent share handed over, would the ACT government have been interested in selling it, along with the other states?

MR SPEAKER: That is a hypothetical question.

DR FOSKEY: Okay. What involvement will the ACT government have in planning and managing the environmental flows in the Murrumbidgee when the Snowy hydro is sold?

MR STANHOPE: The ACT will, of course, continue to assert its authority within its borders in the way that it currently does. To that extent, we will have the control that we have in relation to a waterway such as the Murrumbidgee that traverses, as it does, three, perhaps even four, Australian jurisdictions, where there is, through arrangements which are in place, particularly through the Murray-Darling Basin as it affects the Murrumbidgee in relation to the future of that particular catchment, a relationship in which we are actively involved as a participant in the commission, not a member.

To the extent that your question may go to what role or influence the ACT government may have in relation to the management of the Snowy, regrettably none other than one of moral persuasion and argument about the need to protect and enhance that much denuded and beaten river system. That is something which we do regularly and which we will continue to do. But, at the end of the day, it is a most unsatisfactory and, I think, frustrating position for the ACT to find itself in.

I do not know whether it was an act of deliberate bastardry by commonwealth negotiators and I do not know whether those that were perhaps members of the legislative council at the time within the ACT were not mindful of some of these

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