Questions without Notice – Water
20 September 2007
Mr ALBANESE (2.25 p.m.)—My question is to the Prime Minister and refers also to the water crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin. Does the Prime Minister agree that the Commonwealth has a responsibility to put the national interest first and help resolve the issue of the overallocation of water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin? Does the Prime Minister agree that water is overallocated in the Murray-Darling Basin? Why did the Prime Minister give written approval on 25 March 2007 for the auctioning of 8,000 megalitres of water entitlements for the Warrego River? Does the Prime Minister’s approval still stand?
Mr HOWARD—I will take that question in two parts. Firstly, do I believe there is overallocation? Yes, I do, and that is why we proposed a $10 billion plan. The whole purpose of that plan was twofold. It was to reduce loss of water by piping and lining the irrigation channels, and that was going to account for about $6 billion, and about $3.5 billion was going to be used to fund the buyback of overallocated water. If we had received the cooperation we should have received from the Victorian government, then we would be further advanced towards that goal today than what we are. In relation to the second question, the decision as to whether an auction will go ahead in relation to the Warrego is ultimately a decision of the Queensland government. I have indicated to the Queensland Premier that she should not go ahead with the auction in light of the recommendations contained in the CSIRO report, and I drew her attention to that report two weeks ago.