Environment and Communications - 22 February 2011
Senator SIEWERT—I have some questions that I think might belong here rather than with the commission, so I will try them out. I am interested in the future role of the National Water Commission. I understand that the commission’s term is up fairly shortly; is that correct?
Mr Slatyer—Yes, under the National Water Commission Act that act terminates on 30 June 2012.
Senator SIEWERT—That is what I thought. I wanted to clarify that. Could you tell me what is the likely future of the commission under that act and what the department is thinking about in terms of where to from here?
Mr Slatyer—I can tell you about the formal requirements, which are that under the Water Act, and also under the national water initiative, which is the policy agreement between governments, there is required to be a review of the National Water Commission arrangements. That review will inform any future decision that might be taken about the future arrangements.
Senator SIEWERT—June 2012 is not that far away. What is the process in terms of undertaking that review and the time line until June 2012?
Mr Slatyer—The first step in that process is a review of the National Water Initiative itself, which the National Water Commission is currently undertaking. The final review of the arrangements is to be informed by the outcome of that review. So these things will follow in, I expect, quite rapid succession, for the reasons you were pointing out in terms of the time frame for making final decisions about all of this.
Senator SIEWERT—So the review of the initiatives is being undertaken by the commission?
Senator SIEWERT—When is that due?
Mr Slatyer—I think you will have to ask the commission about their schedule. My understanding is that they are aiming to have that completed by the middle of this year, to inform COAG decisions about the future of the National Water Initiative.
Senator SIEWERT—What happens from there? They are finishing their review. What happens from there in terms of process?
Mr Slatyer—Then, the review of the National Water Commission arrangements—it will be informed by the outcome of the National Water Initiative review—will then be completed and governments—and the initial establishment of the commission involved all the COAG governments—will then be in a position to make the decision they want about the future arrangements.
Senator SIEWERT—I appreciate that it is a policy issue. I am not going to ask about the policy; I know that I cannot. But I do want to know about the time line and what consideration is being given to the review of the commission. Has thought been given to what that would look like, who is going to do it and whether there will be an independent review?
Mr Slatyer—We are giving initial consideration to those issues and that is an issue under consideration within the government.
Senator SIEWERT—Within the federal government?
Mr Slatyer—Within the department at this stage.
Senator SIEWERT—What is the time line? Presumably this will then need to go to states and territories for their agreement on the review process, or will you undertake that review separately and then report back to the states and territories?
Mr Slatyer—The manner in which the review is conducted is yet to be settled.
Senator SIEWERT—Do you have a time line for when that will be settled? I am conscious of fact that there are 12 months here. Once the initiative is reviewed, there are 12 months.
Mr Slatyer—We do not have a predetermined step-by-step time line mapped out at this stage. We are working with the commission around the review of the National Water Initiative. As we can see clearly the progression steps for that process, we will be in a better position to map out precisely the mechanism for the NWC review.
Senator SIEWERT—Do you mean the process of the review of the initiative?
Senator SIEWERT—All right; I will ask in May.