Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 15 November 2007) . . Page.. 3447 ..
MR STEFANIAK: Indeed; the story will come out one day, Vicki. Well done! I was delighted to be the responsible minister at the time. In Mr Humphries’s absence, I had the privilege of signing something I always believed that we should be a part of.
I have said much in this place and publicly about some of the government’s sluggish approach to securing our water supply, and I will not resile from that. It has been slow to realise that water security is important for our territory and slow to realise that, indeed, climate change needs to be addressed and that drinking water should not be used for industrial purposes. However, the Murray-Darling Basin agreement is a very positive step towards the ACT playing its part in the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. It is a positive step in terms of improving our water security. It is a positive step towards the ACT working collaboratively with other governments in Australia—as, indeed, was the announcement by the Prime Minister the day before Australia Day of a major water initiative which is now law, and which I was pleased to see the Chief Minister ticked off on very early in the piece.
It has been a bit disappointing to see Victorian premiers go off on a few tangents in relation to that, but it is very important for us to work collaboratively. I think that was a major issue of the Howard government. I think we will see significant benefits from that, in tandem with the Murray-Darling Basin agreement. It is important for all of us to work together.
Having said that, I must mention a couple of points made by Dr Foskey in her speech. She talked about setting sustainable caps. She made a veiled comment about my understanding of them. I do understand caps, Dr Foskey. I think there has been a big problem in the past. What concerned me was that, between 2000 and 2006, specifically in a couple of the latter years, we actually lost 107 gigalitres of water over and above the cap we were adhering to at the time. That is tragic, because that represents 1½ years supply for the ACT, which uses 65 gigalitres a year. That is something I am going to monitor very closely because I do not want to see it happen again. Another thing I have been critical of is that it was a shame that, in 2005 and then for most of 2006, we did not stay on level 2 water restrictions. We did have some reasonable rain in 2005 and the dams filled up to 67 per cent. I think that was an error and I would not like to see it repeated, should we have some good rain which takes our dam levels up once again. Hopefully, that will occur in the near future.
I am now told—and I will keep hounding Actew and the government on this—that our caps, due to the drought, are down to an absolute bare minimum, with a trickle being let out. That is what the vast majority of people in the ACT want to see happen. Whilst I am always happy, as a model territory, to cooperate with the people around us—the local shires and other states—as part of an agreement such as this, we do have a responsibility, just as every other state and territory involved in the Murray-Darling Basin does, to look after the legitimate interests of the people of the ACT. Those legitimate interests mean not letting out more water than we absolutely have to in order to comply with agreements, and being very careful in terms of how we use this precious resource, in doing all we can to ensure that water security for people in the ACT is of paramount concern.
I think that should be of concern to the commonwealth government, of whatever political persuasion, because at the end of the day, we are a city with some 338,000