Water Week

EWN Publishing

Prime Minister John Howard to use constitutional powers over interstate trading and commerce to enforce federal government control of water

Posted by waterweek on 2 October 2007

Prime Minister John Howard would use constitutional powers over interstate trading and commerce to enforce federal government control of water in the Murray-Darling basin after the collapse of his $10 billion water plan, reported The Australian Financial Review (25/7/2007 p. 3).

Laws to implement plan to resume August 7: The move came after then Victorian Premier Steve Bracks rejected a federal proposal that involved referral of state powers as part of the national water plan and said Howard’s intransigence had “killed” the scheme. Howard signalled that laws to implement the new plan would be introduced when federal parliament resumed on August 7.

New authority to deal with water matters: The bill to be introduced to parliament next month will create a new authority to deal with water matters in the basin. Water Minister Malcolin Turnbull said the difference between the new proposal and the original was that the federal government would not be able to get involved in individual river operations or seasonal allocations of water. Under the constitution, the states have control over river water. However, the new Murray-Darling Basin Authority would still set basinwide caps on water, develop salinity plans and accredit individual water plans in catchments.

$10bn investment remains: The Victorian government would have the right to decide how the cap was implemented in that state. “Victoria could endeavour to frustrate our cap and if it does then South Australia, for example, being at the end of the line, could suffer,” Howard said. He said the goverment’s $10 billion water investment would remain and it would not discriminate against Victorian irrigators as a result of actions by Mr Bracks, whom he accused of playing election-year politics rather than seeking a result in the national interest.

The Australian Financial Review, 25/7/2007, p. 3

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