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Thursday, 27 November 2008
Page: 7468

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) (11:08 AM) —I thank Senator Siewert for having a discussion with us about moving clauses 10 and 11 on sheet 5660 separately to enable some discussion to occur. Indigenous water rights are an issue that I am personally aware of and about which I have had some discussions with Indigenous representatives. I understand that the Murray-Darling system has enormous cultural significance for many Indigenous people and communities within the basin. I think this is a timely reminder that the natural wealth of the Murray-Darling system has sustained countless generations of Indigenous people but, by contrast, the people and cultures that have come to Australia in recent times have only taken a century or so to preside over the current crisis we see in the Murray-Darling. What I have suggested to Senator Siewert is the consideration of clauses 10 and 11. The remainder of the amendments, at this stage, probably go a little beyond where I think the current discussion and Basin Plan arrangements are at. I am very conscious of the importance of considering Indigenous issues in relation to basin water resources through the Basin Plan process. In my view, the best approach to take would be to allow that to occur through the development of the Basin Plan and the consultation that is expected and required.