Page 3493 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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Murray-Darling Basin Agreement Bill 2007

Debate resumed.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.56): I want to speak in the debate on this bill today because it marks the culmination of something that I have been wanting to see for a very long time. Back in 1994, in preparation for the 1995 ACT election campaign, I was part of a group which drafted the environment policy, along with Mr Stefaniak. One of the things that I was very keen to see that the party adopted was that the ACT should move towards full membership of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

In the three or so years that I worked for Gary Humphries when he was the minister for the environment, that was one of the things that were high on our agenda. Mr Stefaniak adverted to the outcome of those negotiations in 1997, when eventually a memorandum of understanding was tabled and agreed to by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission that at least gave the ACT a seat at the table, but not with full voting rights. That was the beginning of the process which culminated, in May last year, with the Chief Minister eventually getting full agreement from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission for the ACT to join them.

I was very pleased then, as the shadow minister for water and the environment, to fulsomely congratulate the Chief Minister on this achievement. I think this is a great achievement. The reasons why the ACT should be a member of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission initiative are obvious: we are the largest metropolitan area inside the basin, and we are the only jurisdiction which wholly occupies a place inside the basin. We have a very important role to play, both politically and in a leadership role, because of our geographic position at the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin.

This is a very important initiative. It is a very important piece of legislation that puts the ACT where it should be in this very vital consultative process. There are real problems and real difficulties in the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. I can imagine that, back in 1997, when we were negotiating the partial entry that we achieved then—and I am sure the Chief Minister had similar concerns and similar dealings—there was a great deal of suspicion from the states because of the nature of the commission and the fact that every commission member effectively has a veto over the decisions made there. I am sure there was a great lack of trust of the ACT. All the large states felt they might be held to ransom by the ACT. I think that lack of trust, which was manifested back in 1997, was misplaced, and it would have been misplaced in 2006 when the final decision was made.

Dr Foskey, in the way that the Greens do, was bemoaning the fact that she was not privy to what was going on in the negotiations. That is the role and place of the Greens—always to be on the edge, rubbing away at the window to remove the fog and having a little glimpse inside. But they will never be inside at the table, making these decisions. They can look wistfully at how the negotiations may have gone on, but I am not going to tell her, because it is not the place of the Greens to know. They will never be a significant player in government or in opposition; they will only be spoilers. While they can’t make decisions about these things, they do not really have very much of a place in this debate. Dr Foskey can be wistful about how the negotiations went. If the Chief Minister wants to tell her how his negotiations went, that is well

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