Feb 8, 2007

Questions without notice: Water (1)


8 February 2007

Mr ALBANESE (2.24 p.m.)—My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Did the minister agree with the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources when he said that there may be the need for farms to be acquired in what ‘may be regarded as in effect a compulsory acquisition’?

The SPEAKER—The minister is not required to answer a question asking whether he agrees with another minister. Nonetheless, I will call the minister.

Mr McGAURAN—Thank you, Mr Speaker; I relish the opportunity to answer this question, and I thank the honourable member. I would suggest that the extract that the honourable member has presented to the House is incomplete or, at worst, inaccurate. The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources made it very clear that overallocation funding is largely and as entirely as possible for structural adjustment. That aspect of the package starts and finishes with assisting irrigators, whether it is with relocation or the like.

There is an element, of course, in regard to the purchase of water allocations, but it will be done on the basis of structural adjustment. It allows me to say that it may very well be in regard to the configuration of irrigation systems. You might retire non-viable areas and the like with the support of farmers. And irrigators have welcomed this. The honourable member is trying to make a political point—unsuccessfully—when irrigators themselves have expressed support for the package. After all, the implications for irrigators are overwhelmingly positive, and that is how they have seen it. The cornerstone of the plan is a commitment of $6 billion to modernise irrigation infrastructure off farms, $3 billion on farms—

Mr Albanese—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, under standing order 104. I asked a clear question. Does he support compulsory acquisition?

The SPEAKER—The member will resume his seat.

The SPEAKER—The member for Sturt is warned! The minister is in order. I call the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Mr McGAURAN—The member for Grayndler interrupted me when I was outlining the benefits of the package to irrigators, not political point-scoring. There is $6 billion for off-farm efficiency, $1½ billion for on-farm efficiency and $3 billion to tackle overallocation. And the irrigators deeply appreciate all aspects of the package, especially the fact that 50 per cent of the efficiency savings will be returned to them.