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12 March 1991 - Current

Page 2782
27 August 2019
ASSEMBLY Questions without notice and ministers statements Lisa Neville
Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine—Minister for Water, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12:27:17): I thank the member for Shepparton for her question and also for her ongoing advocacy and support for proper transparency and accountability around the Murray-Darling Basin plan. The member is right to say that there have been significant issues in terms of transparency and accountability, particularly in the northern basin. There is no question about that. We had a long conversation about that at the last ministerial council in relation to the appointment of the inspector-general. But there is no doubt—I have said to this house a number of times—that Victoria has done the heavy lifting when it comes to delivering water back to the environment. Over 800 gigalitres of water has been returned to the environment, and we are on track to meet what is our legal commitment of 1075 gigalitres. But the research that we have done has shown that this has already had an impact on the viability of the region and on the viability of irrigators. We have remained absolutely determined that no additional water should be removed from the productive pool unless it meets the socio-economic test that has been set. We went through a long process of getting agreement with the other states, and Victoria led this process, making sure that those socio-economic criteria were as strong as possible and were not just about willing buyers and willing sellers, which is what the commonwealth wanted. So we have put in place a very strict set of criteria that looks at cumulative impacts, the financial sustainability of regions and the impact right across the regions. Most importantly one of the criteria—and I will just read that for the member—is that projects approved cannot reduce the overall productive capacity of the relevant region. That was a really critical part, because this is about projects that support water savings rather than projects that take further water from production. We also then got agreement from the commonwealth and the other states about the process, because I share the member’s concern about making sure everyone complies with that criteria. So this means that every state has the projects and we have to assess each of those individual projects against the criteria. So it is not just about people willingly putting their hand up. Every single project must be assessed by these criteria. And I can assure the member that in Victoria—and we will continue to see this across the country, we will continue to advocate to make sure every single state follows this criteria—each project will be assessed against each of those criteria. It is my view that no more water will come from the consumptive or productive pool—it has to come from water savings, otherwise we risk the future of the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district and other productive areas.