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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 38

Senator MURPHY (12:23 PM) —Can the minister, or maybe Senator Allison, point me to where proposed sections 7(2) and/or 7(3) actually mention recommendations? It seems to me that recommendations covered specifically under proposed section 4 are separate. That is why in paragraph (2) of the Democrat amendment it says:

The NWC must not make any other advice or recommendations available to the public without the agreement of the Minister.

I accept the minister's explanation with regard to advice. I think it is correct that the government should be entitled to seek advice and receive it without having to make it public. But I am concerned that the National Water Commission would make a series of assessments and, as a result, make recommendations for solutions, or whatever the case may be, that are not in the form of advice. To use Senator Brown's earlier argument, the commission could recommend that we have to return 10,000 gigalitres of water to the Murray by 2010. The public ought to be made aware of such recommendations which are given to the parties to the agreement at the same time—the states and territories.

I still maintain that there ought to be a time frame. The minister says—and I accept it—that where there is an obligation to make something public it should be done in a timely manner, but what is wrong with putting into a public disclosure provision a time frame of six or 12 months? What is the objection to doing that? That is what I do not understand. I find it difficult to see how you can say it must be done in a timely manner without defining a timely manner. There have been many instances with other reports which one assumed would have been made public in a timely manner but which have not. If the minister can give me some idea of what a timely manner is, I might be happy; otherwise, I would like to pursue putting a time frame on these things being made publicly available.