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Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012

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2010-2011-2012

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

WATER AMENDMENT (WATER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT SPECIAL ACCOUNT) BILL 2012

 

SUPPLEMENTARY EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

Amendments are to be moved on Behalf of the Government

 

(Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATER AMENDMENT (WATER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT SPECIAL ACCOUNT) BILL 2012

GENERAL OUTLINE

1.        The purpose of this government amendment is to include within the Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012 addition detail and requirements in the operation of the Special Account, reflecting the majority report of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, the  Minister’s Second Reading Speech delivered on 31 October 2012, and Schedule 5 of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

2.        The amendment Bill clarifies that the object of the Special Account is to be achieved by recovering 450 GL (GL) of water for environmental use, rather than ‘up to’ 450 GL by amending 86AA(3). This reflects the majority report of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications.

3.        The amendment Bill sets out more specifically the environmental outcomes that can be enhanced through the operation of the Special Account.

4.        The amendment Bill provides for two reviews to be conducted by an independent panel into whether the funds in the Special Account are sufficient to acquire the 450GL and remove key constraints. These reviews will happen by 30 September in 2019 and 2021.

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

5.        This Amendment does not appropriate funds.

REGULATORY IMPACT STATEMENT

6.        A Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is not required.



 

NOTES ON INDIVIDUAL CLAUSES

Amendment 1 - Schedule 1, page 3 (before line 5), before item 1.

7.        This amendment inserts additional definitions for the purposes of administering the Water for the Environment Special Account.

8.        Item 1A inserts the definition of Lock 1 in subsection 4(1). Lock 1 is Weir and Lock No 1 Blanchetown referred to in Schedule A to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.

9.        Item 1B inserts the definition of Lower Lakes in subsection 4(1). Lower Lakes means Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina in South Australia.

10.    Item 1C inserts the definition of Murray Mouth Barrages in subsection 4(1). Murray Mouth Barrages means the Murray Mouth Barrages referred to in Schedule A to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.

 

Amendment 2 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (line 23) to page 4 (line 7), omit subsection 86AA(2), substitute

11.    This amendment replaces subsection 86AA(2) with a new subsection providing for environmental outcomes that can be enhanced through the operation of the Special Account. This reflects the outcomes listed in Schedule 5 of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

12.    Environmental outcomes can be enhanced in the following ways:

a.        Further reducing the salinity levels in the Coorong and Lower Lakes so that improved water quality contribute to the health of insects, fish and plants that form important parts of the food chain, with the aim of achieving the following outcomes:

i.          the maximum average daily salinity in the Coorong South Lagoon is less than 100 grams per litre;

ii.        the maximum average daily salinity in the Coorong North Lagoon is less than 50 grams per litre;

iii.      the average daily salinity in Lake Alexandrina is less than 1000 microsiemens per centimetre for 95% of years and 1500 microsiemens per centimetre;

b.       keeping water levels in the Lower Lakes above:

i.          0.4 metres Australian Height Datum for 95% of the time; and

ii.        0.0 metres Australian Height Datum at all times;

to provide additional flows to the Coorong, and to prevent acidification, acid drainage and riverbank collapse below Lock 1;

c.        ensuring the mouth of the River Murray is open without the need for dredging in at least 95% of years, with flows every year through the Murray Mouth Barrages;

d.       discharging 2 million tonnes of salt per year from the Murray-Darling Basin as a long-term average;

e.        further increasing flows to the Coorong through the Murray Mouth Barrages, and supporting fish migration;

f.        in conjunction with removing or easing constraints referred to in subparagraph (h)(ii), providing opportunities for environmental watering of an additional 35,000 hectares of floodplains in the River Murray System, to do the following:

i.          improve the health of forests and the habitats of fish and birds;

ii.        improve connections between the floodplains and rivers in the River Murray System;

iii.      replenish groundwater;

g.        increasing the flows of rivers and streams, and providing water to low and middle level floodplains and habitats that are adjacent to rivers and streams, in the River Murray System:

i.          to enhance environmental outcomes within those floodplains, habitats, rivers and streams; and

ii.        to improve connections between those floodplains and habitats, and those rivers and streams;

h.       in any other way that is consistent with:

i.          the Authority’s modelling of the effect of increasing the volume of the Basin water resources that is available for environmental use by 3200 GL; and

ii.        easing or removing constraints on the capacity to deliver environmental water to the environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Amendment 3 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 4 (line 13), omit ‘up to’

13.    This amendment modifies the object of this Part. It provides that the object of Special Account will be achieved under paragraph 86AA(3)(b) by increasing the volume of the Basin water resources that is available for environmental use by 450 GL, rather than by ‘up to 450 GL’. This reflects the recommendations of the majority report of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications inquiry into the Bill.

Amendment 4 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 29-31), omit paragraph 86AD(2)(a)(iv) substitute:

14.    This amendment clarifies that funding from the Special Account in relation to dams and storages is to better utilise existing dams and storages, for example by increasing the outlet size of the dams, to better deliver environmental water to environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Amendment 5 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 6 (after line 11), at the end of subsection 86AD(2)

15.    This amendment adds two additional notes to subsection 86AD (2)

16.    The first note clarifies that in relation to subsection 86AD (4) water access rights may be purchased only if the purchase is related to an adjustment of a long-term average sustainable diversion limit under section 23A. That section requires the Basin Plan to prescribe criteria in relation to such adjustments. The effect of the criteria prescribed by the Basin Plan is that water access rights may be purchased only in conjunction with improving irrigation water use efficiency on farms or an alternative arrangement proposed by a Basin State.

17.    The second note clarifies that under this Part, the Commonwealth will not conduct open tender rounds that are available to all water access entitlement holders in a water resource plan area to purchase water access rights

Amendment 6 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 8 (lines 1 to 6), omit section 86AH.

18.    This amendment removes section 86AH, demonstrating the commitment to enhancing environmental outcomes. The Special Account may be varied, revoked or abolished by future amendments to the enabling legislation.

Amendment 7 - Schedule 1, item 2, page 9 (after line 27), at the end of Part 2AA, add.

19.    This amendment provides that two reviews must be conducted by an independent panel into whether the funds in the Special Account are sufficient to acquire the 450 GL and remove key constraints.

20.    The reviews must be conducted by a panel of at least 3 persons nominated by the Minister, after consulting each Basin State. The first review must be provided to the Minister by 30 September 2019, and the second review must be provided to the Minister by 30 September 2021.

21.    The amendment sets out the matters that must be considered by each independent review, which are:

a.        The progress that has been, and is anticipated to be, made towards increasing the volume of the Basin water resources that is available for environmental use;

b.       Whether the design of projects in relation to which payments have been made under section 86AD is likely to be effective in increasing the volume of the Basin water resources that is available for environmental use by 450 GL;

c.        Any other matter specified in writing by the Minister that is relevant to achieving the objects of the Special Account set out in Part 2AA.

22.    The amendment sets out the requirements for tabling each review, and Government responses to each review, in each House of Parliament. The Minister must table each review in each House of Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day the report is given to the Minister. The Minister must table the Government’s response to the first review at the time the Treasurer tables the budget for the 2020-2021 financial year. For the second review, the Minister must table the Government’s response at the time the Treasurer tables the budget for the 2022-2023 financial year.