Page 3440 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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Leave granted.

MR PRATT: I table the following papers:

Restricted and dangerous dogs—various papers (9).

Remainder of bill, as a whole, agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Murray-Darling Basin Agreement Bill 2007

Debate resumed from 30 August 2007, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.58): I am very glad to support this bill which enables the ACT to be a fully participating and voting member of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. The ACT will now have full veto rights like the other states. Although we are only a very small jurisdiction within the wider Murray-Darling Basin, it is more than token that the ACT is involved. We represent the largest concentration of population in the basin and we are responsible for management of a stretch of one of the basin’s most important rivers, the Murrumbidgee.

The Murray-Darling Basin Commission states that over 95 per cent of the Murray’s length is degraded, due to catchment disturbance, sediment and nutrient loading. The other major concern is the massive water removal for irrigation, which results in no flow at all through the river mouth. The great Murray River is dying. Being at the headwaters of the Murray River, we in the ACT have a responsibility to ensure that as much water flows out of the ACT as flows in, and in as good as or better condition.

Professor Ian Falconer notes that, although our water use is minute in the context of the basin, we can be a positive example. He explains that half the water we draw from our part of the catchment for water supply goes back into the Murrumbidgee as processed sewage discharge, and the great majority of the water falling here goes directly into the Burrinjuck Dam for irrigation use. The Snowy scheme, via Tantangara Dam, uses most of the water that would have flowed through the territory for electricity generation. It misses the ACT and rejoins the Murrumbidgee lower down.

It is impossible to discuss the major issues relating to our joining the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council with full participation and voting rights without discussing the commonwealth government’s Water Act and the national plan for water security. It must be noted that this Water Act was rushed through both federal houses of parliament within a week, after a five-day Senate committee inquiry, and came into effect two months ago. Unfortunately, because of the haste with which it was rushed through parliament, we did not have the opportunity to discuss this in the Assembly at the time.

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