In February 2011 the Council of Australian Governments(COAG) established new arrangements for Ministerial Councils that support their work. One of the Ministerial Councils affected was the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council which was re-established as the Legislative and Governance Forum on the Murray–Darling Basin.
Membership of the Legislative and Governance Forum on the Murray–Darling Basin comprises Ministers with responsibility for the Murray–Darling Basin. This includes the Commonwealth Water Minister, who also chairs the forum, and one minister from each of the Basin states and the ACT. Current members are: Chair, the Hon Tony Burke MP (Commonwealth); the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP (New South Wales); the Hon Peter Walsh MP (Victoria); the Hon Ian Hunter MLC (South Australia); the Hon Andrew Cripps MP (Queensland); Mr Simon Corbell MLA (ACT).
When exercising powers and functions under the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement and the Water Act 2007 however, these Ministers with responsibility for the Murray–Darling Basin convene as the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
The Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council is established by the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement, Schedule 1 to the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth), as amended.
The Ministerial Council has an advisory role in the preparation of the Basin Plan by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority. The Authority will provide the proposed Basin Plan to the Ministerial Council and Council may refer the proposed plan back for reappraisal if it disagrees about certain matters. The Ministerial Council will then provide its views on the proposed Basin Plan to the Commonwealth minister.
When the Basin Plan was first made, the Authority advised the Council on the socioeconomic implications of any reductions in the sustainable diversion limits in the Basin Plan. The Authority is also required to provide advice to the Ministerial Council on the impacts of the Basin Plan five years after it first takes effect.
The Ministerial Council has policy and decision-making roles for matters such as state water shares, and the funding and delivery of natural resource management programs, as set out in the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement. The Authority is required to prepare an annual corporate plan for approval by the Ministerial Council in relation to these matters.
The Ministerial Council also has a policy and decision-making role in regard to issues relating to critical human needs as provided for in the Act, which also provides for a complementary role for the Basin Plan in this regard.
The Ministerial Council may give directions to the Basin Officials Committee concerning its functions and powers under the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement, and can also seek the advice of the Basin Community Committee on these functions.
A communiqué is released following each meeting.