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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 51

Murray-Darling Basin


Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (14:27): My question is to Senator Scullion, representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basinmilestone assessment report for 2016-17, due to be published in October 2017, remains unpublished. With regard to New South Wales, will the minister detail the issues that have been in question?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:27): I thank the senator for the question. I understand that a decision is yet to be made on the 2017-18 milestone payment with New South Wales. In all cases, that type of decision is actually informed by the performance of, in this case, New South Wales in its 2016-17 system under the national partnership agreement. Full assessments of all basin jurisdictions, including New South Wales, are going to be published on the department's website once a decision has been made on all assessments by that minister.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Burston.



Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (14:28): Will the minister detail whether New South Wales was subject to a threat of nonpayment or actual nonpayment over New South Wales's performance on the protection of Commonwealth held water assets under this assessment?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:28): As I indicated in my previous answer, the minister has yet to make a decision on the 2017-18 milestone payments and, as I indicated, that's because they have to actually do a triage of the 2016-17 performance in New South Wales. Payments made under the national partnership agreement for all basin jurisdictions are subject to an assessment of performance under the agreement milestones, and it's exactly the same with all the partnerships across the basin.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Burston, a final supplementary question.



Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (14:29): Will the minister confirm that protecting these multibillion-dollar water assets is not enhancing its asset rights and characteristics at the expense of privately held assets?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:29): The Commonwealth water assets are held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, which falls under the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment and Energy. However, I understand that, under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray Darling Basin, all basin jurisdictions agreed that:

… the characteristics of licence entitlements held for environmental water use were not enhanced or diminished relative to like entitlements held and used for other purposes.

There were a couple of other elements of the questions from the senator that I wasn't able to answer. I would be happy to arrange a further briefing on those details of this important issue.