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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 29

Senator ALLISON (11:38 AM) —I indicate that the Democrats will not be supporting these amendments. The composition of the commission was agreed by the COAG process, and I think it is worth noting that the Western Australian and Victorian state government submissions did not suggest any further changes to the composition of COAG. The commission comprises people with a high level of expertise in relevant areas. The Commonwealth nominates four members, including the chair, and the other parties to the National Water Initiative nominate three. We support the idea that the commission is expert in relevant fields and not representative of particular interest groups or governments. I think to interfere in what has already been agreed by COAG in this respect, in terms of expertise and so on, would not be appropriate for the committee at this point in time.

There is one issue on the matter of the commission that I would like to ask the minister about. It is an issue that came up as part of the WWF Australia submission to the inquiry process. Minister, you might be able to talk about this. The WWF Australia submission says:

... the Bill sets out a list of expertise to be included on the Commission, including experts in freshwater ecology or hydrology. WWF understands that the range of expertise is not limited to the list provided for in the Bill but notes the NWI implies experts in both freshwater ecology and hydrology will be included on the Commission (Schedule C). These are quite different scientific disciplines, and both highly relevant to the NWI. WWF is concerned that it is possible that only one relevant scientific expert may be appointed to the Commission.

I wonder if the minister could clarify that and confirm that it is intended that both freshwater ecology and hydrology will be included in the composition.