SUBJECT/S: Ministerial responsibility for water resources.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY:  Well Barnaby Joyce’s bumbling attempt to clarify the ministerial arrangements around agriculture and water this morning raises more questions than provided answers. Part six of the Water Act apparently now is so unimportant that Barnaby Joyce spent the last month fighting for it.  Barnaby Joyce misled the Australia public this morning about the way water is managed in this country.  He failed to articulate exactly who has responsibility for various parts of both water and agriculture.  He didn’t once, except in answer to a question, mention Minister Briggs - who I understand does have part six of the Water Act 2007; which of course is the part of the Act which amongst other things controls and stipulates the law around the Commonwealth Water Holder. This has become ridiculously chaotic.  We had a senior business delegation here yesterday wanting to talk about potential changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and rules - but they did not know which Minister they should be talking with. Fisheries and forestry having been lopped off the ministerial title two years ago is now without any defined clarity about who they should be talking to about fisheries and forestry. Only a month ago we had a dedicated Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry in Richard Colbeck, but today people don’t know who they should be talking to and today, allegedly, Senator Anne Ruston doesn’t still know what she has responsibility for.

Today I call upon Barnaby Joyce to do two things:  he needs to finally release the so called “side letter” which Warren Truss claimed accompanied the so called “New Agreement” between Coalition partners after the leadership ballot; and he needs to release publicly the Charter Letter he says he received from the Prime Minister yesterday. There is nothing confidential about a Charter Letter.  It just simply sets out what is the Ministers’ responsibilities and what are the expectations of the Prime Minister about the role the Parliamentary Secretaries or junior Ministers will play.  He can clarify this whole situation today by releasing the charter letter.  But can I say, most of the arrangements that Barnaby Joyce was talking about today, when he starting talking outside the Murray-Darling Basin, are the responsibility of the States.  He waffled a fair bit about what he can do in water elsewhere but he gave no specific answers. We know that on the day of the leadership ballot Barnaby Joyce was causing the aspiring Prime Minister grief.  The now Prime Minister quieted him down by promising him something he simply hasn’t delivered but Barnaby Joyce wants you to believe, wants the Australian public to believe, something quite different.  That’s why he waffled this morning, gave no detail and left as much confusion in his wake as we had last night.

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