14 October 2010
Joint media release
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig
Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean
Minister for Sustainable Population, Communities, Environment and Water, Tony Burke
The Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean, the Minister for Water, Tony Burke and the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig, will invite the new Parliamentary committee for Regional Australia to conduct an inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The inquiry is set to examine the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan on regional communities. It is likely to have a strong focus on understanding the human impact of any proposed changes.
The inquiry is an important part of the broader consultation process for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The inquiry will have the opportunity to consult widely as it is not due to report back until the end of April, 2011.
The Government has been developing the terms of reference for the inquiry in consultation with the prospective chair of the Regional committee, Independent MP Tony Windsor.
Mr Crean will formally give the reference to the House of Representatives Committee on Regional Australia when the membership of the committee is finalised.
“The inquiry can deliver a strong platform for engaging with the community over the Basin Plan – in particular examining the human cost of increasing river flows,” Mr Crean said.
“People living in regional areas and small rural towns will be able to take part in the consultations and be part of the process.
“I am pleased the first inquiry by the new Regional committee covers such a crucial issue. It will be a great first-up challenge for the committee,” Mr Crean said.
Water Minister Tony Burke said the inquiry would be an important platform for scrutiny and consultation for the Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan.
"The work currently being conducted by the independent Authority doesn't change the fact that there needs to be a direct engagement from the Parliament.
"This inquiry, headed up by Tony Windsor, will help ensure that we can find the balance between healthy rivers, strong communities, and continued food production," Mr Burke said.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said given the significance of agricultural production to regional Australia this inquiry will provide farming communities along the Basin with an opportunity to have their say.
“I am very interested to work with farmers and farming communities to ensure agriculture continues to be an efficient and sustainable contributor to Australia’s economy.”
Some of the key issues that could be addressed include actual water usage levels, ways to increase water efficiency and mechanisms for delivering sustainable outcomes.
The inquiry could hold discussions with local government, Regional Development Australia, Landcare groups, catchment management authorities, community and farming groups as well as individual stakeholders.