Transcript of media conference on the National Water Summit
Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Phillip St, Sydney
Friday, 23 February 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: National Water Summit
ALBANESE: Kevin Rudd is currently meeting with the Vice President of the United States, so he’s asked me to represent Federal Labor with our response to today’s National Water Summit.
Federal Labor welcomes the agreement reach today on the Murray-Darling.
Australia is confronting a national water crisis, it needs a national water solution, and today’s Agreement is a positive step in the right direction.
From day one, Federal Labor has sought to play a constructive role in bringing together the States with the Commonwealth. To this end, Kevin Rudd and myself have met with various premiers around the nation over the past fortnight and had many discussions over the phone.
Ultimately of course this was a decision for the Premiers, the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister, and we congratulate them on today’s outcome.
A further process of consultation will now take place between the Commonwealth and Victoria. Victoria has particular challenges due to their existing water management systems, but we are confident that the Victorian Government will continue to work constructively with the Commonwealth.
As a result of today, the States and Commonwealth have come together on a number of outstanding issues which were raised as a result of the Prime Minister speech on 25th January.
It’s clear that there’s been a spirit of compromise and flexibility in the national interest.
There’ll be a review in seven years time of the Agreement.
There will be an independent commission which will make representations to the Commonwealth Minister. If the Commonwealth Minister disagrees with any of the recommendations from the Commission, that Minister must table reasons in the Parliament for that disagreement.
The independent Commission will be made up of two State representatives as well as two Commonwealth representatives and a Chair, appointed by the Commonwealth. These positions will be discussed at COAG in a cooperative way.
It’s been agreed today the planning powers will remain with the States and that caps will only be altered on a pro-rata basis.
Federal Labor will continue to play a constructive role on this issue. We congratulate those people involved, in particular, Premiers, the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister on this outcome today. And we look forward to further involvement in resolving questions of our national water crisis. In particular, a resolution to our urban water issues which confront the 17 million Australians who live around our major capital cities and our coastal towns.
ALBANESE: Victoria has some particular challenges as a result of the fact that they have a very mature existing water management system and there are ongoing concerns that they had about the challenges faced by Victorian farmers and irrigators. I note that there’ll be bi-lateral discussions between Victoria and the Commonwealth and Federal Labor is hopeful that the outstanding issues that Victoria has can be resolved. Agreement must be sought which is good for the nation as well as being good for the individual States and Territories. And I’m confident that Premier Bracks and the Victorian Government will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with the Commonwealth.
ALBANESE: Federal Labor would like to see a constructive dialogue. That will take place now under these bi-laterals, but we’d urge the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth Government to enter into those negotiations with the objective of achieving an outcome for which all States and Territories can then be signed up for. It’s clearly preferable that all States and Territories along with the Commonwealth agree across the board. So, we’re hopeful that the bi-lateral discussions, which were agreed to today, will lead to that.