Coalition orders Murray-Darling review after allegations of water theft
Coalition orders Murray-Darling review after allegations of water theft.
After a week of public contention and controversy, Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement on Sunday saying he would seek the agreement of all the Murray-Darling states to undertake the review and report back to the Council of Australian Governments.
The prime minister’s statement said while the government was confident the basin plan was being implemented, “it is important that basin communities and all Australians have confidence that the rules that underpin fair and lawful water use throughout the basin are being followed”.
“We expect that, as part of their agreement to the review, basin water ministers will commit to providing the Murray-Darling Basin Authority with ready access to all relevant information and the full support and cooperation of relevant state officials,” the prime minister’s statement said.
The Four Corners program alleged that billions of litres of water bought by taxpayers to return to the environment under the basin plan were being allegedly pumped out by some irrigators for cotton growing.
After the report was broadcast, the South Australian water minister, Ian Hunter, called for a judicial inquiry, and he said the NSW government needed to account for the claims.
“A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that’s all about?
A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down.” Turnbull’s statement on Sunday made it clear Canberra no longer intended to wait for the NSW inquiry, and it said strong compliance regimes were “just as important for irrigators as they are for the environment and basin communities”.
The process will identify the highest areas of risk of noncompliance and undertake a strategic analysis focused on these areas.
Labor’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said the new review lacked firepower, and could not provide sufficient protections for witnesses.