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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2896

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(4.22) —I thank Senator Vigor for his enthusiastic support for the Ministerial Council on the Murray- Darling Basin Management that we have established, with its supporting network of committees, particularly the community advisory committee. Although visibly evident fruits will take some time to be borne from an initiative of this kind, it is, I think, one of the proudest initiatives of this Government and certainly one with which I have been happiest to be associated, because it has come to grips with a problem that has been endemic since Federation. It gives us heart for the first time that we will get some rational and co-ordinated response to the whole mix of problems-both water and land management problems-in the river basin area.

I turn to the specifics of Senator Vigor's question. It is the case, as he will be well aware, that responsibility for water resource matters in Australia rests mainly with individual States. In the Australian Capital Territory the operation and maintenance of those facilities falls under the responsibility of the Minister for Territories. In many water authorities around Australia there is some doubt as to whether current pricing policies and accounting practices adequately provide for depreciation and asset replacement. As I indicated in a Press statement that was released following the July meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council, this is a major issue, a policy concern, which is being addressed by the Commonwealth and State members of the Council. The planning committee of the Council has identified this issue as a major priority in its current work program, with a view to producing a full report to the Council at its June 1987 meeting.

Honourable senators would also be aware of the discussion paper entitled `Proposed Policy Guidelines for Statutory Authorities and Government Business Enterprises' which my colleague the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) tabled in the Senate in June 1986, which addresses the question of appropriate accounting practices for public authorities. Although consideration is still being given to the discussion paper, it does give some indication of the direction in which the Government wishes to move.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Attorney-General's Department

Proposed expenditure, $247,499,000.