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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11923


FRAN BAILEY (5:21 PM) —I rise today to speak specifically about Senate amendment (6) to the Water Amendment Bill 2008 which refers to the north-south pipeline or, put simply, the government giving the imprimatur to the Victorian government to act as a rogue trader, acting to extract a net amount of 75 billion litres of water out of the Murray-Darling system and to send it down a pipe to Melbourne, a pipe that will travel a distance of some 75 kilometres from the township of Yea in my electorate to the Sugarloaf Reservoir, also in my electorate.

It surely defies all reason. It does certainly for those of us on this side of the House and I am quite sure to anyone listening in to this debate. On the one hand, we have the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong, spending in excess of $12 billion to put water back into the Murray-Darling Basin system and, on the other hand, we have the government, with the imprimatur of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts at the table, saying to the Victorian government: ‘It is okay for you to take this unaudited water that you claim to be saving from your food modernisation project. It is okay to take that water out of the system, send it down to Melbourne and construct a pipeline to the tune of over $1.5 billion to send this water.’ The minister at the table has given the Victorian government the authority to flagrantly breach all of the conditions which the other states could not breach as part of a national management strategy for a national management plan for the Murray-Darling Basin. It is just bad policy, no matter which way you look at it—stealing the water out of the system. The Victorian government did not consult with anyone. They did not consult with the Commonwealth, they certainly did not consult with local communities in my electorate and they are getting away with acting as rogue traders in this instance. It is simply a nonsense at that level, and it makes a nonsense of the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The minister for the environment, who is sitting at the table, surely could not be aware that along the length of the pipeline there would need to be five pumping stations—if ever they can find the water to send it down to Melbourne out of this heavily stressed region in drought—pumping emissions into the atmosphere. Mr Deputy Speaker, you have to ask yourself why the Victorian government would make this decision and overturn a previous commitment. Why does the Rudd government support the Victorian government in this very bad policy? The answer, of course, lies in votes in Melbourne. They do not care what this does to all the people in the farming communities. They do not give two hoots about the people in the Goulburn Valley. Their only concern is shoring up votes in Melbourne.

People listening to this debate must also understand that the Rudd government is giving its imprimatur to the types of activities that the Victorian government has endorsed. As a local policeman said to me about their water legislation just recently, these Melbourne Water officials have more power than the police in Victoria. They have the authority to enter people’s land. More than 10 of my constituents have been arrested for trying to protect their own property. I have witnessed Melbourne Water officials cutting padlocks and entering properties. I have also seen them taking heavy equipment and dragging it through paddocks that have been locked up to make hay. I have witnessed the damage on people’s individual properties and also through the Kinglake National Park and the Toolangi National Park, yet the minister for the environment is the person who has given his imprimatur to this project and is allowing the Victorian government to act in such a rogue manner in stealing water out of the basin and to act so irresponsibly. (Time expired)