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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1022

Dr STONE (9:30 AM) —Since the release of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan there has been a spate of letters and articles in my local media written or submitted a small group calling themselves the Northern Victorian Irrigators. The group’s President, Dudley Bryant, has usually been the one whose name appears at the bottom of these pieces. He has been one of the most determined supporters of the pipeline taking water away from farms to Melbourne. He and his group are trying very hard to convince the public that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s failure to address the socioeconomic impacts of a reduction of up to 45 per cent of irrigators’ water is as directed by the coalition’s Water Act 2007. Alternatively, he argues it is due to that act overlooking socioeconomic elements as an essential part of the act. Mr Bryant no doubt took his lead from Mike Taylor, Chair of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, who used this excuse when confronted with the fact that the Basin Plan had not properly taken the community impacts into account and in fact was inaccurate in statements about job losses expected.

So let us look at the Water Act. In part 2 of the legislation, under subsection (b) of section 20, the act says:

The purpose of the Basin Plan is to provide for the integrated management of Basin water resources in a way that promotes the objects of this Act, in particular by providing for:

…            …            …

(d)   the use and management of the Basin water resources in a way that optimises economic, social and environmental outcomes …

The Water Act also says the Basin Plan is to be developed:

(b)   … on the basis of the best … scientific knowledge and socio-economic analysis; and

(c)   have regard to …

…            …            …

(v)   social, cultural, Indigenous and other public benefit issues.

The mandatory content of the Basin Plan, according to section 22 of the Water Act 2007, must also include:

(d)   the social and economic circumstances of Basin communities dependent on the Basin water resources.

So, quite obviously, there is no problem with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority picking up the elements of the act, the socioeconomic analysis requirements, and doing the hard yards. They failed to do that. We will never know quite why. They understand their mistakes and they are trying urgently to patch up the problems, having announced an inquiry themselves to be completed by March next year.

I want Mr Bryant and the Northern Victorian Irrigators to really put their hearts into trying to create a win-win scenario, not be apologists for the Labor government, not back up Mr Crean’s suggestion that it is all the fault of the Water Act. They really need to do better because too many people throughout the Murray-Darling Basin understand the significant impacts on communities if all they get out of this is a bald figure of some 3,000 gigalitres to 7,000 gigalitres less water for them to provide food and fibre for the rest of Australia and, indeed, for the world. I am certainly going to do my best to get a win-win scenario with on-farm water use investment and irrigation infrastructure investment. (Time expired)