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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9044

Mr GIBBONS (Bendigo) (10:25): I endorse the words of the member for New England. I also would like to point out that both inquiries—the very gruelling inquiry undertaken earlier and this very short inquiry—were very skilfully led by the member for New England. I think that a lot of the credit for our having a unanimous report goes to his stewardship and negotiating ability. We should be forever indebted to him. As he said, this inquiry was conducted over a period of five weeks to enable the committee to report in a timely manner so that recommendations could be incorporated into the ministerial council's consideration of its draft plan.

Submissions were sought directly from basin state governments, peak interest groups and the general public: 40 submissions were received, with 17 organisations and three state governments represented at public hearings. As with the committee's first inquiry into this matter, the community submitted a range of water-saving proposals ranging from six gigalitres through to the use of the desalination plant in Adelaide to achieve 1,100 gigalitres by better watering of the Lindsay-Walpolla Islands in Victoria. The report found that there are some areas where the department is being not quite effective in getting its message out. I understand that is being addressed.

I again thank the chair—the committee was very capably led by the member for New England—and also the secretariat, under Glenn Worthington and ably assisted by Siobhan Leyne, Casey, Katrina and Emily. The first inquiry—not so much the second inquiry—was conducted sometimes, not often, under the most gruelling and trying circumstances, such as the heat, the dust and the flies that come from travelling in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland in high summer. It was a very enjoyable trip; a lot of good comradeship was shown during it.

I think we have come up with a report that very accurately reflects what people in the basin on both sides of the argument, if you like to use that word, are thinking. I still think very strongly that we are capable of getting a win-win situation. We took evidence that proves that. I know the minister is striving to do that. I just sound a note of caution: if we do not get this right this time there will probably never be another opportunity to get the reforms needed to ensure a sustainable Murray-Darling Basin for all the communities involved, whether they be environmentalists, irrigators, farming communities or small businesses.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for New England wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?