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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr WINDSOR (2:51 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister, given the government’s attempt to overcome state borders as impediments to water reform, and assuming the states agree to the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, and given your recent visit to Tamworth for the magnificent Tamworth Country Music Festival, you gave an undertaking to part fund an enlargement of Chaffey Dam, in the Northern Daily Leader in an article titled ‘Dam green light: support from Vaile, Iemma for Chaffey’. Deputy Prime Minister, seeing that that commitment was given prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement and prior to New South Wales agreeing to cede its powers in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin, and since the Commonwealth will have total responsibility, could you outline the status of the government’s commitment to Chaffey Dam and the people of Tamworth?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I wish to correct a couple of facts in the member for New England’s question: it was indeed on the Saturday of the country music festival—and it was a very good festival—which was after the Prime Minister’s speech, which was delivered on the day before Australia Day. I will reflect on the assertions that the member has made. My recollection of my comments is that some proposals had been put forward by a number of local community members—and the issue was raised with me by the Mayor of Tamworth—with regard to concerns about Chaffey Dam and how that could be improved in terms of securing water for not just the city of Tamworth but also downstream irrigators in the Peel River system, and, given that that system flows down into the Murray-Darling Basin, the ongoing effects of the basin. I made the comment that I thought at least local people were starting to exercise a bit of lateral thought about how they could deal with the crisis that is upon them at the moment—as is besetting many irrigators and communities right throughout the Murray-Darling Basin system—as our government would exercise broad lateral thinking in our responses.

I indicated that they should put forward these proposals to us so that we can have a look at them—as I am aware that the Premier of New South Wales did at the time that he was there—as we move forward in this process. Again, I remind the member for New England that for the first time in this nation’s history we have put down a proposal to do something constructive about a serious problem right throughout the Murray-Darling Basin system.