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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 10142

Senator FEENEY (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (18:10): The government does not support this disallowance motion and expresses its deep disappointment that the Greens are engaging in a deliberate strategy to delay the achievement of what is a significant environmental reform for this critical riparian system.

On Monday the Water Act Basin Plan 2012 was tabled in the Senate. This instrument brings into effect the Murray-Darling Basin Plan announced by Minister Burke last week. The plan brings to an end 100 years of disagreement. The plan restores our rivers to health, supports strong regional communities and sustains food production. The plan implements the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's recommendation to return 2,750 gigalitres of surface water to the environment. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has consulted widely in the development of the plan. The government is acutely aware of the range of views expressed in those consultations. As was said in the Senate last week, the foundation for this reform is unequivocally and unapologetically to restore the river system to health. The plan takes the pathway that is most sensitive to basin communities.

The biggest risk to this historic plan is the disallowance of the plan in either chamber of the parliament. All Australians concerned about the health of this great river system and the wellbeing of basin communities need to promote to their representatives the importance of supporting this plan. The river system cannot survive any further delay. As senators know, the plan is already law unless of course the disallowance motion is successful here and now. Senators need to be aware that, if this plan is disallowed, the future of the Murray-Darling Basin will continue to stagnate and deteriorate. Redrafting the plan would take years. The processes under the Water Act 2007 would require a new public comment period, two rounds of ministerial consultation and the authority's consideration of the minister's suggestions. Even if the plan was not changed, it could not be reintroduced as a disallowable instrument for another six months.

The Murray-Darling Basin is too important to be used as a platform for political posturing. The Greens party does not have a commitment to sustainability. It is a party that is only committed to conservation at any price. The Greens judge success on what they stop, not on what they protect. They had a chance to support an emissions-trading scheme to address climate change three years ago but urged against it. They just want coalmining to stop. The question is: what will the Greens allow? They do not consider the economic or social implications at all. They do not take a triple bottom line approach. They just have a single bottom line. If there is an environmental impact, it is bad. To paraphrase former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, they represent the impotence of purity.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has been crafted by expert advice and years of consultation. The Greens party need to comprehend that they live in a pluralistic democracy. If you have the option where everyone's interests can be considered and not just simply your own, that is in fact a virtuous thing.