Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Water amendment bill 2012 introduced to parliament

Media release
20 September 2012

Minister for Water, Tony Burke, today introduced into Federal Parliament a bill to assist in delivering economic, social and environmental outcomes for the Murray Darling Basin.

The Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012 will formalise the framework in the Water Act for a mechanism to further the Government's commitment to a triple bottom line outcome.

"The Government has been clear that we are committed to a Plan for the Murray Darling Basin that restores our rivers to health, supports regional communities and ensures sustainable food production," Mr Burke said.

"The Authority was always going to recommend a Sustainable Diversion Limit which would have environmental, social and economic outcomes.

"The Bill we have introduced creates a framework for a mechanism that says if you can improve on any one of these without hurting the others, you should be able to.

"For example, if we can improve environmental outcomes by increasing our investment in infrastructure there would potentially be a very significant improvement in the environment but no negative impact on the local community.

"Similarly, if there are ways of using environmental water more efficiently, this can reduce the need for buy back, which creates a better outcome for the community but delivers the same environmental objectives.

"When you look at the environmental, social and economic impacts that have been contemplated so far, I have made clear that I want to see more ambitious environmental outcomes.

"Many communities have made clear they want to reduce the impact of general tender buy back.

"This bill is about making sure we can achieve both in a transparent way.

"When I was visiting Basin communities one message I heard very clearly was that we should be meeting our environmental outcomes by using water more efficiently.

"The mechanism was also sought by all Basin governments and was recommended by the Windsor Inquiry."

The Water Act already allows for a mechanism in the Basin Plan. The Bill sets out the broad parameters for the mechanism, how it is intended to operate, and introduces transparency in the process, requiring any use of the mechanism to be reported formally and publicly to the Parliament.

It will require the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to consider proposals for adjustments against criteria in the Basin Plan and allow a change to the SDL limited by up to plus or minus 5 per cent in net terms.