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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5788

Senator XENOPHON (4:29 PM) —I will be very brief. I endorse the remarks of Senator Hanson-Young, and I was pleased to be part of that minority report of the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport inquiry into water management in the Lower Lakes and Coorong, including consideration of the Emergency Water (Murray-Darling Basin Rescue) Bill 2008. I also acknowledge and endorse the remarks of Senator Nash in relation to the Sugarloaf pipeline and the damage that it will do to the Murray-Darling Basin. I will confine my remarks principally to the issue of the emergency water bill that I introduced and the evidence that was heard, particularly from Professor John Williams, of Adelaide university’s law school.

It is clear that the Commonwealth does have the constitutional power to tackle this crisis in the Murray-Darling basin. It is clear that it can use its powers to fast-track water buybacks and to take the action that is necessary to avert this crisis so that there is an equitable share of water in the system, overallocation is dealt with and the crisis that the Murray-Darling Basin faces can be dealt with comprehensively with one set of rules by the Commonwealth. That is something that has not been done by this government. I urge the government to have the same sort of political will that the Hawke government had 25 years ago when it took on the then Tasmanian government in relation to the Franklin River. That is the sort of approach and the sort of urgency that we need now to tackle this crisis.