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Government response keeps Murray-Darling in the dark on the Water Act

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Senator Barnaby Joyce

Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and


Leader of the Nationals in the Senate

Government response keeps Murray-Darling in the dark on the Water Act

The Labor government has once again refused to release legal advice on the Water Act

in defiance of the recommendations of a Senate inquiry.

Last year, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee found that the

provisions of the Water Act create a legal framework where “environmental

considerations can be, and are, given substantially more 'weight' than social and

economic considerations."

Even the Greens, in their dissenting report, admitted the same stating that "the MDBA

and the Minister are required to give environmental considerations precedence in

developing the Basin Plan."

The difference is that the Greens agree with this unbalanced outcome, the Committee

recommended the Act be changed to fix it and that all of the government’s legal advice

be released.

The Committee's recommendations were based on legal advice from many sources

including an 'in camera' briefing from former MDBA chair, Mike Taylor, submissions from

Professor George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, and

Professor John Briscoe of Harvard University.

The government's response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's

Water Act inquiry has also called into question the validity of the summary legal advice

the government has previously released.

So far the government has released just 10 pages of the more than 1000 pages of legal

advice they have received on the Water Act.

In its response today, the government claims that the summary legal advice it has made

public is "distinguished" from other legal advice because it was prepared on the

understanding that it would be made public.

This calls into question whether the summary advice is a full and accurate reflection of

the other advice the government has received.

The Murray-Darling is too important for the government to keep it in the dark. It must

release all of the legal advice before the basin plan is finalised.

The Murray-Darling is home to 2.1 million Australians, provides water for 1 million others

and produces 40 per cent of Australia's agricultural output, including 9 of every 10

Australian oranges.

28 March 2012

More information-Matthew Canavan 0458 709433

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