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The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we want

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Senator Barnaby Joyce 

Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water  Leader of the Nationals in the Senate  Senator for Queensland 

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we want

December 07, 2010 12:16

Mike Taylor’s resignation today is a clear sign that Labor’s Murray Darling Basin process is hurtling towards a train crash.

The Coalition moved on 28 October, 2010 in the Senate for there to be added to the Rural and Regional Affairs inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin a specific clause that required investigation into ambiguities in the Act. This quite obviously was for the remedying of the Act, if required, to bring a triple-bottom line approach.

Initially this amendment succeeded because Senator Ludlam of the Greens failed to turn up for the vote. The Labor Party then had the vote recommitted and the Labor Party, the Greens and an Independent voted the amendment down.

On the same week, I wrote a letter to Tony Windsor, Chair of the House of Representatives inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin, requesting that his inquiry investigate the ambiguities of the Act. Mr Windsor has yet to reply.

We now also have another extremely serious problem. It appears from Mike Taylor’s advice from the Australian Government Solicitor is distinctly different to Minister Burke’s reflection on that same advice as detailed in his Ministerial Statement and his Statement to the House.

In a Ministerial Statement on 25 October, Tony Burke said:

It is clear from this advice that environmental, economic and social considerations are central to the Water Act and that the Basin Plan can appropriately take these into account. I do not offer the advice as a criticism of the MDBA. What is important now is how the MDBA now responds to it.[1]

Well, the MDBA has now responded and it is clear that Mr Taylor has a different take on the Australian Government solicitor’s advice than his own Minister, when Mr Taylor said this morning:

The Guide was developed with full regard to the requirements of the Water Act, and in close consultation with the Australian Government Solicitor. However, the Authority has sought, and obtained, further confirmation that it cannot compromise the minimum level of water required to restore the system's environment on social or economic grounds.[2]

I thank Mr Taylor for the hard work that he has done for the Authority and the dignified way in which he conducted the community information sessions over the past few months. It is unfortunate that he did not receive any government support at these sessions. He took the blows that the Minister should have been there to deflect.

The Government must now come clean with the people of the Murray-Darling Basin and release all of the legal advice that it or the Authority has received. This is imperative now that the Prime Minister has come out and backed the Minister’s position. When the Prime Minister talks about her “interpretation” of the Water Act, what exactly is she reflecting on?

The myriad of stories are not congruent. Somebody somewhere is not being entirely frank to say the least.

The Government must also task the House and Senate inquiries into the Murray-Darling Basin to undertake a proper investigation of any ambiguities in the Water Act that would prevent the delivery of a triple-bottom line approach as was originally intended.

That is the only way that we can deliver certainty to the communities of the Murray-Darling Basin so that they can continue to invest in the jobs and affordable food that the Basin provides.

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