Question Without Notice: My question is for the acting Minister for Water. Minister, you attended the ministerial council meeting of water ministers last Thursday, representing the Victorian government. Your press release following that meeting expressed your frustration at the failure of the commonwealth government to address the central issue of the inability to deliver the full 605gigalitres of water required under the Murray-Darling Basin plan by 2024, only three years away. The dairy farmers, fruit growers and mixed farmers in northern Victoria are anxious about their futures, and on their behalf I ask you: what can the Victorian government do to protect them from further buybacks when the targets for delivery are not met by 2024?
Mr WYNNE: I thank the member for Shepparton for her question and her continued advocacy around these important issues. I think it is appropriate that I should acknowledge today, as I am sure the house would, that we do wish the member for Bellarine a full recovery at home. She is at home and recovering, and we—
Mr Merlino: Hopefully not watching.
Mr WYNNE: Well, actually, I hope she is not watching. I know I speak for the Parliament that we do wish her a full and complete recovery, because frankly what I have learned in this very interesting portfolio is that the member for Bellarine has literally led the debate nationally in terms of water issues more generally. Last week, as the member for Shepparton indicates, I met with Murray-Darling Basin ministers and, really, I was able to use the strength of the position that the minister had put in place to continue to advocate on some really fundamental issues. Frankly, the federal minister again failed to address the central issue of successfully delivering the remainder of the basin plan.
Mr WYNNE: Tune in. I will let you know, okay? I was really very upset because this is the third time, as the Leader of the National Party knows, that we have attempted to try to negotiate a better outcome from the commonwealth.
Mr WYNNE: Victoria has achieved all of its obligations. I will not be deflected by them, Speaker. It is a disgrace. We will complete 19 of the 22 projects that we are required to complete by 2024. Everyone at the meeting recognised that the deadlines cannot be met for three of our projects and four in New South Wales by 2024, and this is recognised by independent reports and also by our friends the Victorian Farmers Federation and the Goulburn-Murray irrigators leaders group. These projects include very significant impacts, including river overflows onto public and private land, which clearly require extensive consultation with landowners, traditional owners and local government. In that respect we simply cannot get those projects finished by 2024 because we have to take communities with us.Clearly, member for Shepparton, I again raised the question of buybacks, which are absolutely opposed by Victoria, and the federal minister indicated that there would not be buybacks but it still sits in the legislation at 2024.
Supplementary Question: On my recent trip to the northern basin I saw huge storage dams built on private land for the purpose of flood plain harvesting, while we in Victoria were heavily regulated back in 1998 to stop that behaviour. Minister, is your government, your department, watching closely what is happening in New South Wales right now and the impact of that behaviour on Victoria?
Mr WYNNE: I thank the member for Shepparton, who came to give me a briefing on her visit up through the region and into Menindee Lakes and beyond, indicating some of the activity that is going on in New South Wales. Obviously we have been long concerned about flood plain harvesting in the northern basin, and we know of the environmental impacts of lack of flows, particularly down the Darling River. In that respect we know that the environmental impacts of this are really quite devastating. So my colleague, of course,the member for Bellarine has raised these issues publicly through the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council over a number of years, and I will continue to make representation on these matters to New South Wales. We look forward to them working with us to ensure that we protect the environment, and the moves this week to regulate and meter flood plain harvesting I think are an important step forward in that endeavour. So thank you for your interest in it.