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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3741

Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (13:52): I rise to speak on the Water Amendment Bill 2018. This bill allows a previously disallowed northern basin instrument to be returned without further consultation, on the basis that it is substantially the same as the former instrument. Much of the debate has been focused on the return of 70 gigalitres of the proposed northern basin water recovery target of 390 gigalitres to consumptive use. It should be noted that the MDBA modelling, as detailed in responses in Senate estimates and published by them, shows the impact of the 70 gigalitre reduction on the Murray flows to be as low as seven gigalitres on flows in the Menindee Lakes and a four gigalitre impact into South Australia. The benefit to struggling regional communities on the northern basin is large. I will be writing to local government and other community representatives in these areas and visiting them over the next few months. I suggest to senators who are expressing concerns over this and are representing their state's interest to visit the people in the sacrifice zones of Collarenebri, Wee Waa, Dirranbandi, Moree, St George, Dubbo, and Narromine—to name just a few communities that will gain relief from this provision.

I raise concerns over other aspects of the northern basin regulation that bring into effect new machinery to assess the new role of the Commonwealth and state water resource plan accreditation. Industry and environmental groups should put far more effort into the detail of this regulation. It is too easy to argue over the 70-gigalitre number when, in reality, the maximum impact in South Australia is four gigalitres. I think focusing on the seven-gigalitre reduction has allowed measures that should be scrutinised to slip through. I'm dealing with this through Senate estimates questions and will be in more direct contact with the government and with local government, community and industry groups.

I will raise one of those concerns now. The additional recovery of the 450 gigalitres of so-called up water is subject to the caveat of zero impact on regional communities. I share the concerns of the Greater Shepparton City Council, represented by Mayor Kim O'Keeffe, who has written to me raising concerns about how this assessment will be conducted. The government needs to detail its assessment criteria and go into discussion with local government and community groups prior to finalising its assessment criteria. The United Australia Party is committed to representing all Australians, and we will not accept sacrifice zones of people who are not well represented.