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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 2350

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (12:28): The opposition supports the Australian Capital Territory Water Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2013. Indeed, this was a bill prepared before the election as part of the implementation arrangements for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan but was not able to be processed through the parliament before the election. I am grateful to the minister for bringing this bill before the parliament, and I think all Australians are grateful for the bipartisan support the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in its broader sense, has from this parliament.

The opposition do have differences with the government about certain aspects of their implementation arrangements for the plan, particularly their decision to defer $650 million in buyback funding by two years. But the minister is correct that, in its essential elements, this Murray-Darling Basin Plan now has bipartisan support from this parliament. That must be a great relief to communities along the Murray-Darling Basin but also to those in cities such as the one I live in, Adelaide, which had very great concerns, particularly during the millennium drought, about even something as basic as reliable access to drinking water.

This bill deals with a microcosm of the inefficiencies that have bedevilled the Murray-Darling Basin area and the communities that live within it for decade upon decade upon decade. Australia has been trying to deal with those inefficiencies since the Federation debates, since the first meeting of Murray-Darling Basin communities or, should I say, Murray-Darling Basin governments in 1915 and, as we all know, in the very difficult debates that have happened over the last several years, to arrive at the place where we are now.

The minister has outlined the impact of this bill. I do not intend to belabour the point, but what it essentially does is allow the ACT to discharge its water abstractor obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and deal with some of those inefficiencies that have been in place for the best part of 100 years, since the community of Canberra was founded. It finally deals with those inefficiencies in a way that will ensure that New South Wales, the Commonwealth and the ACT are able to discharge their obligations under this watershed plan.