Victoria Minister for Water Peter Walsh
Walsh Rejects Suggestions Of Compulsory Acquisition
Victor P Taffa
Victoria will reconsider its participation in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan if the Commonwealth Government seeks the Power to compulsorily acquire Water.
Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh today rejected comments made by Federal Water Minister Tony Burke which flagged that the acquisition of water within the Murray Darling Basin could become compulsory.
Mr. Burke told the Commonwealth Parliament yesterday that a delay in water buybacks would:
“Land Australians in a situation of potential Compulsory Acquisition in eight years time.”
“If you do not engage in the buyback in a strategic way, the concept of willing sellers completely falls off the table.”
Mr. Walsh said if the rules were changed to allow compulsory acquisition, Victoria would be targeted by the Commonwealth because of the high reliability of the state’s water shares.
“Although Victoria gets accused of failing to contribute its share, we are already doing most of the heavy lifting.” Mr. Walsh said.
“Based on average allocations over the past five years, the water secured by the Commonwealth from Victoria would have delivered more than twice as much water as the water secured in New South Wales for the southern Murray-Darling Basin.”
“At October 31 last year, the Commonwealth had secured 286,363 megalitres in entitlements from Victoria which, based on the past five years, would have delivered 173,831 megalitres of water.” Mr. Walsh said.
“In contrast, it has secured 301,329 megalitres in entitlements from New South Wales, which would have delivered just 65,976 megalitres of water.”
“It’s clear the Commonwealth is targeting high value water in Victoria and low value water in New South Wales.”
Mr. Walsh said the Commonwealth’s decision to raise the possibility of compulsorily acquiring water had injected more misapprehension and fear into the debate over water reform.
“If the Commonwealth looks to strip water from food producers, Victoria will reconsider its willingness to participate.” Mr. Walsh said.
“Our participation in this process is on the basis that water buybacks are voluntary.”
The idea was flagged by Mr Burke in Question Time after the Federal Opposition suggested water buybacks should be deferred for another year.
“The issue of compulsory acquisition should never have been brought into what was a political debate about the Federal Government’s proposed flood levy.” Mr. Walsh said.
Mr. Walsh said Victoria had stated very clearly in its submission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority that the Basin process should verify and recognise existing rights and entitlements.
“Under the Water Act neither the Commonwealth nor the Authority has a mandate to compulsorily acquire water.” Mr. Walsh said.