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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20635

Mr RANDALL (3:24 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Would the minister advise the House on the progress in Western Australia of the implementation of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality? This question comes on top of last Wednesday's announcement by the environment minister of $1.8 million in funding in my electorate of Canning.

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the honourable member for Canning for his question, and I also thank the members and senators from Western Australia for the way in which they have pursued the implementation of natural resource management policies in their state and particularly for their endeavours to secure appropriate levels of funding for Western Australia. I think everyone knows that many of the salinity problems in Western Australia are perhaps more extensive than in other states, although many land-holders have of their own initiative undertaken significant salt mitigation measures. It is important that there be comprehensive and overall planning to address salinity issues in Western Australia.

I am pleased to advise the House that, at long last, Western Australia has signed a bilateral agreement for the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. Some two years after the original agreement was reached, Western Australia has finally become the last of the states to sign up, so that money can start to flow to Western Australia to deliver outcomes under this very forward thinking program. Unfortunately the program in Western Australia, at least at this stage, will be only a shadow of what we had hoped. Western Australia has agreed to take up only $31 million of the $158 million that the Commonwealth was prepared to offer that state. Western Australia wanted credit to be given for past expenditure and funding for a whole range of projects which were not really developed under the concepts and philosophies of the national action plan.

The Commonwealth has given Western Australia until its next budget to come up with the additional $127 million over the life of the program so that the full amount provided for Western Australia can indeed be spent in that state. Of course, if WA is unwilling to make that sort of contribution then, as the Commonwealth is anxious to get some value for its money, the Commonwealth will have to talk about other ways in which the money can be spent in other states, but it is certainly the Commonwealth's priority to have the funding flowing to Western Australia, where it can achieve obviously significant benefits.

For five regions in Western Australia—the south coast, the south-west, the Avon, the Ord and the northern agricultural areas, which are amongst the 21 selected catchments under the national action plan—this funding will enable some money to at last flow to Western Australia to get the national action plan operating in every Australian state, and we hope that WA will see the benefits of this program and commit the full allocation of funding very soon.