Victoria refusing to hand over water rights

Federal Water Minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated his thoughts about how best to go about finding a resolution with Victoria, the only State that has rejected the plan outright.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: What we’re endeavouring to do form the Commonwealth’s perspective, is approach this in a very open-minded and constructive way.

We a have an objective that the three States have committed to and Victoria has obviously not yet committed to it but we have a shared objective with three states and the Commonwealth. So what we have to do now is to get the legislation right, get the detail right to achieve that.

And also, in so far as we can, accommodate the concerns of Victoria. So we’re seeking from Victoria and the other States and I might say receiving constructive suggestions and proposals that enable us to improve the package.

DANIEL HOARE: Victoria’s Water Minister John Thwaites was also sticking to his guns after today’s meeting.

JOHN THWAITES: The legislation that has been proposed essentially would give the Commonwealth Minister power to reduce water rights, to override state planning laws, even to set water prices.

This is far broader than we need if we are going to get the best co-ordinates management of the Basin.

DANIEL HOARE: South Australia’s Water Security Minister is Karlene Maywald.

KARLENE MAYWALD: This is the biggest constitutional change in this nation in 100 years. You can’t expect it to happen overnight.

DANIEL HOARE: Karlene Maywald says the other states will support Victoria in its bid to protect its constitutional position.

KARLENE MAYWALD: I am very confident that the discussion will move forward. I don’t think anyone’s being unreasonable in representing their communities of interest. Victoria has some concerns they would like resolve. They are working with the Commonwealth on that. We got some issues with some of the detail, we’re working with the commonwealth on that.

DANIEL HOARE: The Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has dug his toes in on the Murray-Darling plan, describing it as ‘dead in the water’, but the Federal Water Minister is confident a resolution is in sight.

And despite having only been in Parliament for two and a half years, and a Minister for the best part of four months, Malcolm Turnbull was doing his best to convince his state counterparts otherwise.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Often these, when you’re negotiating long documents, be they acts of Parliament, or agreements, often the breakthroughs, if you like are gradual.

What you have to do is identify the points of difference, work out how the common objectives of the party can be realised in a way that they are both comfortable with, and as you knock off those differences, knock off those barnacles, if you like, one by one, and then you can focus on hopefully a small number of remaining large issues. And that’s where there’s obviously have to be scope for compromise and flexibility on both sides.

We are approaching this in a very constructive way. We believe this is important for Australian. It’s vital for the security and the sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin and we say to everybody, ‘be part of the solution, not part of the problem’.

MARK COLVIN: Federal Water Minister Malcolm Turnbull ending Daniel Hoare’s report.

© 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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