EXTRACT FROM HANSARD – Page 2990
South East Qld. Water Bill (Restructuring)
& Or Leg. Bill – 29 Nov. 2012
Question put—That the motion be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND WATER (RESTRUCTURING) AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Resumed from 31 October (see p. 2301).
South East Qld. Water (Restructuring) & Or Leg. Amend’t Bill
Hon. MF McARDLE (Caloundra—LNP) (Minister for Energy and Water Supply) (3.03 pm):
That the bill be now read a second time.
Before turning to the bill, I cannot let the comments of the member for Bundamba in this House go unchallenged. The former public works and housing minister. Turning to the bill, the South East Queensland Water (Restructuring) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 deals with a number of important policy issues and government commitments. The bill has two key components: firstly, the SEQ water reforms, largely the merger of the SEQ bulk water entities, Seqwater, LinkWater and the SEQ Water Grid Manager, together with the abolition of the Queensland Water Commission; and secondly, but equally importantly, amendments to the Water Fluoridation Act 2008.
The new single bulk water authority will commence operations on 1 January 2013—a new beginning for water supply in South-East Queensland, a single accountability for bulk water supply. I would like to acknowledge and thank
the Finance and Administration Committee for its detailed review of the South East Queensland Water (Restructuring) and Other Legislation
Amendment Bill 2012.
I believe that is further evidence that the process put in place by the last parliament is indeed working in this parliament.
The committee made a number of recommendations and I now table the government’s response to those recommendations.
Tabled paper: Finance and Administration Committee: Report No. 23—South East Queensland Water (Restructuring) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, government response .
I would like to respond to the committee’s two recommendations on the water reform. The committee recommends that the department ensure that the Rural Water Advisory Group be considered as part of the ongoing consultation process. The government supports the committee’s recommendation. The department will ensure that the advisory group has a continuing role in enabling
29 Nov 2012
South East Qld Water (Restructuring) & Or Leg. Amend’t Bill 2991
members to be informed and keeping my department informed on emerging issues. The Bulk Water Supply Authority will be represented on the Rural Water Advisory Group. On this point, the committee is absolutely correct. The Bulk Water Supply Authority is not just an urban business; it will provide water to rural users and must be aware of the needs of its rural customers.
With regard to the proposed amendment to the Water Fluoridation Act 2008, I intend to move amendments during the consideration in detail that will alter the government’s approach to fluoridation of drinking water. The proposed changes will provide choice for all local governments across Queensland on whether to implement or continue the fluoridation of our drinking water supplies. The health minister, the Hon. Lawrence Springborg, will also address these recommendations in his contribution to the debate.
The proposed amendments have been circulated in the House. It is important to give some background to these amendments. With the leave of the House, I want to first and foremost mention and state clearly that the Newman government supports the inclusion of fluoride in drinking water as an effective oral health measure. However, this government also recognises the role of local government as the closest level of government to our communities. It is right that local governments make these decisions as to whether to include fluoride in drinking water. This is consistent with the partnership approach of the Newman government with local governments as has been referred to by the Minister for Local Government this morning and as is evidenced by the Partners in Government Agreement. These amendments will empower local governments to make a decision that reflects the intent of its communities. However, with this empowerment comes responsibilities. As the Minister for Local Government confirmed in visiting each local government across this great state, each of the local governments in Queensland has the capacity and the leadership to make these decisions.
In recognising the strength of the Newman government’s relationship with the local government, I should also reflect on the actions of the previous government. In April 2007, then Premier Beattie, with his then minister for local government, Andrew Fraser, first met with mayors moments before announcing in this House the sudden and unexpected decision to force amalgamations. This epitomised the relationship of the other side with Queensland local governments.
Unlike the contempt that the other side had for local government, the Newman government is giving the power to local governments to make decisions for their communities on those matters that are important to their communities. We have a positive plan for Queensland’s future. We are sorting out the mess left by Labor. That is why we are involving local governments in the decision making process. As I said, I will be talking further in relation to the terms of
the amendments when we get to the clauses in the consideration in detail of the bill. However, it is most important that members in the House clearly understand that the recommendations state that the implementation of a decision to fluoridate or not must not affect water supplies to communities in other local government areas without the agreement of those other local governments. Secondly, the cost of implementing a decision of a local government whether to fluoridate or not is to be borne by the local government and not the water supplier.
In essence, the local government can make the determination to fluoridate or not, but the cost associated therewith is upon that local government and the impact upon adjacent local governments, if any, is a cost to be borne by the local government that makes the determination.
In its final recommendation the committee asked the department to consider a change in title to better reflect section 169 which deals with water restrictions.
As the committee is aware, the government is undertaking a full review of the SEQ water restriction framework in 2013.
I will undertake relevant amendments which arise out of this review, including changes to section 169. A key part of the review will include the development of…