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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7843


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (12:18): by leave—I move government amendments (1) and (2) on sheet EF114 together:

(1) Clause 12, page 11 (after line 15), after subclause (3), insert:

   (3A) In giving a direction under subsection (3), the responsible Ministers must exercise their powers consistently with the Water Act 2007.

   (3B) Before giving a direction under subsection (3) in relation to a water infrastructure project that is wholly or partly within the Murray-Darling Basin (as defined by the Water Act 2007), the responsible Ministers must seek the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's advice as to whether in giving the direction, the Ministers would be exercising the Ministers' powers consistently with the Basin Plan (as defined by the Water Act 2007).

(2) Clause 12, page 11 (after line 18), after subclause (4), insert:

   (4A) If:

(a) the responsible Ministers give a direction under subsection (3) to the Corporation to enter into an agreement; and

(b) the direction is one in relation to which the responsible Ministers received advice from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority under subsection (3B);

then:

(c) the Board must notify the responsible Ministers when the agreement has been entered into; and

(d) the responsible Ministers must publish the advice on the internet within 30 business days of receiving the notice under paragraph (c).

The government amendments to the Regional Investment Corporation Bill 2017 relate to directions that the responsible ministers are able to give to the corporation under clause 12(3) directions to enter into grants of financial assistance for water infrastructure projects. That directions power is an important part of the government's arrangements of the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility and provides the mechanism for government to communicate its decisions on projects that have been approved for a loan. The amendment makes it clear that, in giving a direction under clause 12(3), the responsible ministers need to exercise their powers consistently with the Water Act 2007. They will also have to seek the advice of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority before issuing a direction under clause 12(3). This requirement ensures that the responsible ministers receive advice on the consistency of the projects with the Basin Plan from the independent body that is best placed to make the assessment. The government is committed to working with states and territories to build the water infrastructure needed for agricultural industries to expand and increase their productivity, and the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility is a critical part of that commitment.

We are also committed to meeting our water management obligations, and this amendment makes that clear and should provide confidence to the senators in supporting this bill. In moving this amendment, I acknowledge in particular the interest of senators from my home state of South Australia in making sure that we are absolutely explicit that there is no impact on the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and in particular water policy by this organisation. I thank Senator Xenophon for his work with me and the department on ensuring that we have the very clearest of conditions included in the bill to make sure that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is delivered in full and on time and that the Water Act and water policy are not compromised in any way.