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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6123

Murray-Darling Basin

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (14:39): My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister would be aware of the highly acclaimed Inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Honourable members interjecting

An opposition member: It's no joke.

Mr WINDSOR: It is no joke. The Prime Minister would also be aware of the unanimous support of Labor, Liberal, National and Independents for the report's findings. Given this united approach to a long-running issue, what is your view, Prime Minister, of the report?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:40): I thank the member for his question. I am regretting that I am not in possession of his well-known sign with the '10' on it to judge contributions to the parliament because I think I would be holding it up in view of that question. But, yes, I am very well aware of the parliamentary report that he speaks of. I am very well aware that he led the inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin. I am very well aware of the hard work that went in from all members of the committee across all political parties in the parliament to look at what is a very important issue for the nation. I thank all of them for the work that they have done in compiling this report.

As the member for New England would be aware, the recommendations are being taken very seriously by the government and more broadly. As the member for New England would be aware, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is seriously considering the work that has been put together by the committee. The government are seriously considering the work. The government's response to the interim findings was to act on a number of issues to which the committee drew attention—for example, moving to address the taxation issues that were inhibiting infrastructure investment, introducing smaller rolling tenders for water buyback to allow a more modest presence in the water market, beginning consultation with stakeholders around a new more flexible approach to support rationalisation of irrigation areas and committing $10 million for the states and the community to conduct feasibility assessments into environmental works and measures that can help to bridge the gap. These were important findings and in our interim response we have addressed those important findings.

The government will now seriously consider the rest of the committee's recommendations and work, and respond in due course. But I am pleased to see that, at this stage, the member has led a bipartisan approach to what is a pressing issue facing the nation. Permanent and sustainable reform has eluded past governments; I am determined that it will not elude this parliament and this government. This is the time to ensure that the Murray-Darling Basin has the policies for the future that will see a healthy river and sustainable communities, and growing and food security. We will be working with the member for New England and broadly with the committee members and parliamentary members on achieving just that.

Mr Hartsuyker: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could the Prime Minister table the notes from which she was reading?

The SPEAKER: Was the Prime Minister reading from a document?

Ms GILLARD: I was referring to a document about the committee's findings. Sections of the document are confidential.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My understanding is that it is the custom of the speakers to ask if the Prime Minister was actually reading from notes that are marked confidential and if they are not marked confidential then the custom is to table them. As a South Australian, I am keen to have a look at those notes about the Murray-Darling.

Mr Melham: Can you be trusted?

The SPEAKER: The member for Banks is warned!

Mr Dutton: That is your Prime Minister you are talking about.

The SPEAKER: The member for Dickson is warned!

The established practices of the House are to inquire of a minister whether they were reading from a document. They are then asked whether the document was confidential or not. The fact that we truncated that process seems to have upset people. We will just have to wear that at this stage. The member for Chisholm has the call.