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Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia
House of Representatives committee
Monday, 18 January 2010
Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional Australia

CHAIR (Mr Windsor) —I declare open the first public hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia as part of its inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Guide in regional Australia. This inquiry was referred by the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon. Simon Crean MP. The committee has received, I think, something like 550 or 600 submissions at the moment, about 400 of which are currently available on the committee’s website, and there will be more there soon.

The committee will call witnesses to the table as per the program and, time allowing, will then proceed to submitter statements. I remind those present wishing to make submitter statements to please inform the secretariat of their intention. Before introducing the witnesses, I refer members of the media who may be present at this hearing to the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee.

Before I introduce our first witnesses, I would like the members of the committee to introduce themselves so you have an idea of where they come from. I represent the constituency of New England, which is in northern New South Wales. New England, in a little snapshot in relation to this particular issue that we are discussing, has most of the major storages of the Darling system within its boundaries. There is quite a lot of hilly country where, originally, many of the dams were structured. I am delighted to be chairing this committee, and we have a very worthy group of people on this committee that are taking this issue seriously. I think the fact that we are on the road for nine days in January says something in itself. There is a fairly exhaustive process that we have put in front of ourselves in terms of trying to come to grips with this issue and the various catchments and subcatchments that make up the system. Without further ado from me, I ask the committee members, perhaps from the far left—I do not mean that in a political sense—to introduce themselves and let you know where they come from.

Mr MITCHELL —I represent the seat of McEwen, which is in the north of Melbourne, into the north country area along the Goulburn River and around those areas.

Mr SIDEBOTTOM —I am the deputy chair. I am from Braddon in north-west Tasmania, where we are used to a little bit of water. Only two days ago, I was sandbagging my house; we thought we were going to lose it.

Mr McCORMACK —I represent the federal seat of Riverina, which has the Murrumbidgee flowing through it. I represent an area which covers from the Snowy Mountains right through the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and out to Hillston.

Ms LEY —I am the member for Farrer. Most of the Murray in New South Wales and most of the Darling River in New South Wales are in my electorate, which ranges from Albury to the South Australian border and up to the Queensland border.

CHAIR —I think you are all familiar with Patrick Secker. Patrick is running a little bit late. He hosted us over the last day in parts of his electorate, and some of us had dinner with him last night. Patrick will be here in a moment.

[8.50 am]