Greens Privacy Motion against the Minister for Water

Written on the 2 May 2012

[Mr Barber Moved -


That this house requires the Leader of the Government to table in the Legislative Council by 12 noon on Tuesday, 22 May 2012, all correspondence between the Minister for Water, any government departments and Goulburn-Murray Water in relation to the preparation and postage of a letter dated 12 April 2012 addressed to irrigators from the Minister for Water, regarding the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district update, file no. 033/32157/956.


I further move:


That, pursuant to section 63 of the Information Privacy Act 2000, this house calls on the privacy commissioner to investigate any use of Goulburn-Murray Water's customer database for the purposes of correspondence dated 12 April 2012 addressed to irrigators from the Minister for Water, regarding the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district update, file no. 033/32157/956.


My intention is that we debate these two motions cognately and vote on them sequentially.]


Ms Crozier - -
I am pleased to rise to speak on both the motions from Mr Barber before the house this afternoon. At the outset, having listened to Mr Drum's contribution, can I say I think it is very refreshing for people in the northern parts of Victoria to have representatives, including the Minister for Water himself, who understand this issue in a very thorough and pragmatic way. This is in complete contrast to what we saw under the previous government in relation to the mismanagement of many areas of water policy. As has been highlighted, it has been a very divisive and difficult issue, but the government will not oppose motion 339 moved by Mr Barber today.


However, I would like to make some comments in relation to the significance of what the minister has undertaken in his role as minister. Mr Barber has himself said he is a minister who is -- --


[Mr Barber] -- That he has got half a brain.


I do not think that is what Mr Barber said at all. He said that the minister is competent in his position, and I would concur with him on that. As I have said, the previous government's water mismanagement on a number of projects has not been forgotten by the people of Victoria. Those have been highlighted. Obviously the north-south pipeline directly affected many irrigators in that part of the state, but also there is the desal plant, which is an enormous legacy for which the Victorian public will be paying for the next 30 years.


There has been confusion in relation to many aspects surrounding the issue of irrigation in those districts.


Irrigation is vital to agricultural investment, whether in food or fibre, which are hugely important industries to not only the local region but Victoria as a whole. That should not be forgotten in relation to the work of these industries. These businesses need some certainty. Over many years there has been a degree of uncertainty, and the minister has been providing factual information about the situations surrounding those communities that are dependent upon irrigation for their economic livelihood.


Mr Drum highlighted a number of issues on which many of these irrigators were seeking clarification, such as the Murray-Darling Basin plan. I have to say we have heard about that for years, and I congratulate the minister on his handling of that issue with the federal government and in particular on how he has gone about getting a better deal for Victorians. Mr Lenders himself said the Ombudsman's report is damning. Let us not hide that it was, quite rightly, damning in relation to food bowl modernisation and other related matters.


The report highlights a range of issues with which people who were directly affected by this issue had to deal, and Minister Walsh is trying to clarify some of the uncertain messages that are out there in indicative areas of which irrigators need to have a more thorough understanding. That is what this issue is all about. As I said, the minister has every right in the official position he holds as Minister for Water to put out information. He is also the Deputy Leader of The Nationals.


It is fair to say that over many years there has been uncertainty around water policy and water issues. There are no surprises in that.


It had an enormous impact right across Victoria and right across the country. But that is not new to the state of Victoria; it is certainly not new to the country. They were issues that had to be dealt with, but not in the knee-jerk way that the previous government dealt with some of those projects.


As I said, it set up a lot of uncertainty for many of those irrigators. They need certainty to frame their future businesses, and it is a legitimate concern of theirs to want to see some clarification. Equally it is a legitimate initiative of the minister to put out that clarification.


I think a number of members in their contributions have howled about party political advertising or what the then opposition members, now members of the government, said about the previous government's advertising and communication strategy. It was in stark contrast to how this government is communicating. I think it was Mr Drum who made reference to a former Premier buzzing around in a red helicopter. But who can forget all those expensive TV commercials and the glossy pamphlets that provided little substance? The previous government was the government of spin. The Baillieu government, by contrast, has had a platform of transparency, and it is one that we are very proud of and one that we will continue with.


In relation to motion 339, the government will not be opposing it. But as Mr Drum and Mr O'Donohue have said very succinctly on the government side, the government will be opposing motion 340, which calls on the privacy commissioner to investigate any use of the customer database of Goulburn-Murray Water for the purposes of correspondence. With those remarks, as I said, the government will not be opposing motion 339 but will be opposing motion 340.

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