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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 924

Dr STONE (1:41 PM) —In my address-in-reply to the Governor-General’s delivery of the agenda for this parliament I want to highlight one of the key issues. It is an extraordinary situation that this Labor government occupies the benches and Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, occupies the Lodge on the basis of their being able to convince a number of people that they would offer regional Australia the very best chance of a more sustainable future. So today I hold up some recent headlines that relate to an extraordinarily important plan that has just been delivered for the Murray-Darling Basin. This is a plan that has been three years in gestation and which cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It is a plan that we have to presume the Prime Minister knew about, because she put it off—she did not want anyone to see it immediately before the election. Just a few short days ago this plan was dropped onto the basin communities. The headings include: ‘The scary plan’, ‘Plan will leave communities fighting for survival’, ‘Basin plan will devastate towns’, ‘War over water inevitable’ and ‘Plan anger grows’. Protesters in a photo on the front page of the Weekly Times held signs reading ‘8000 jobs down the drain’, ‘Irrigation feeds a nation’, ‘Frogs don’t feed us’ and ‘City 4 sale BYO H2O’, and so it goes on.

As we speak, a town meeting is taking place in Narrabri, a very important part of the Murray-Darling Basin. We know that at the next meetings, part of the 23 that are being offered in the basin, the anger, frustration and disappointment will be palpable. When the coalition was in government we understood very much that there had been governance failure over the basin for decades. Four or five jurisdictions are all carving up and taking responsibility for water law and managing different water law entitlements in what is the biggest and driest basin in the world. The coalition set about putting things to rights by introducing the National Water Initiative, which was agreed by COAG in 2004. In 2007, we introduced legislation which had embedded in it the need to produce a plan that would make sure there was both a sustainable environmental future for the basin and a sustainable future for the food and fibre producers, who have also played a part and continue to play a part in ensuring that the ecosystems that they, of course, depend on are sustainable into the future.

What we have got instead is a travesty and a sham. I am ashamed to think that the plan that Australian government officials produced is so poor and has produced such anxiety in our communities. The first public meeting was held in the city of Shepparton—in fact, there were two meetings: one was held in the morning and one was held in the afternoon—just one working day after this plan was released, and the people who went to those meetings, over 1,000 of them, went in a dignified and carefully respecting way. They wanted to hear every word that was going to be explained to them about the content of this plan because it was about their future.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member for Murray will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.