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Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia
House of Representatives committee
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia

CHAIR (Mr Windsor) —Ladies and gentlemen, I call the meeting to order and thank those witnesses who are going to be appearing before the committee for their attendance. I also welcome members of the general public here today as well. Obviously this is an issue that a lot of people have been very concerned about. As you would all know, I think, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, MDBA, produced Guide to the proposed Basin Plan, which is a guide to a draft, and then conceivably the draft is a draft to a plan which will then become some sort of legislative mechanism that the parliament will have some say in.

This is the first time that parliament has had a Standing Committee on Regional Australia. For our first inquiry we deemed it important enough to actually look at the issue of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s guide. I will not go through the terms of reference but we will look at essentially how it potentially impacts on communities and individuals in relation to their water entitlements and the micro economies of various communities.

This committee is made up of all the political persuasions within the parliament: Liberal, Labor, National and Independent; all from the lower house seats; all from different parts of the catchment and some from outside the catchment. The committee has been working extraordinarily well together to look at the issue and see whether there is a win-win solution in terms of coming to grips with some of the issues that have been raised, particularly through the meetings that occurred across the basin when the authority came out with the original guide.

Through the evidence that we have been getting from various groups—and I am sure we will get substantial evidence today and again tomorrow in Goondiwindi—we believe that there is a pathway through this that may not have much of an impact on individuals, if any at all. We believe that river health can potentially be restored in those parts of the catchment where there are issues without some draconian act occurring to people within the various communities that have quite legally developed their investments and operations based on previous government policies.

Today is really about receiving evidence from different organisations that have put in submissions. We have those submissions. The point of today is not for the witnesses to re-live the submission; what we would like is a summary of your major points and then the committee will actually question you on those issues so that we have got a better understanding of this part of the world.

We are all from different parts of Australia so we do not have the knowledge of every part of the world. As you would understand, with six governments involved in this including the Australian Capital Territory, there are different water products and different issues within the different states that all share the catchment.

There are a few formal things I do have to do. I declare open this public hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia as part of its inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia. This inquiry was referred by the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon. Simon Crean MP.

The committee has received over 600 submissions which are available on the committee’s website. The committee will call witnesses to the table as per the program and, time allowing, will then proceed to what we are calling submitter reports. Members of the general public might like to make a brief statement. I can assure you they will have to be brief.

May I remind those present that those wishing to make submitter statements please inform the secretariat. I remind members of the media who may be present at this hearing of the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee. I am sure there will not be any problems in St George.

[2.22 pm]