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Water issues on Senator’s agenda

Thursday, 15th August, 2019

Nationals Senator for NSW, Perin Davey, in Broken Hill yesterday at the start of her “listening trip” to the Far West. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Nationals Senator for NSW, Perin Davey, in Broken Hill yesterday at the start of her “listening trip” to the Far West. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Nationals’ Senator for NSW, Perin Davey, was in the city yesterday to discuss, among other things, water issues and whether a royal commission should inquire into the Murray Darling-Basin’s management.

Ms Davey said her trip to Broken Hill, Menindee, Ivanhoe and Wentworth was in response to a Menindee water action group request and that water issues, sealing the Pooncarie to Menindee Road resealing and business opportunities were to be discussed.  

“They’ve got a number of issues they want to talk about,” she said.

“I’ll take on board anything they have to say, and where I need to follow up on I’ll certainly take it up with my federal government colleagues.

“This is really a listening trip for me but to maximise the use of my time, I’ve touched base with Wentworth and Broken Hill shire councils to see if I could catch up with them and find out what the real issues are.”

Her visit follows the recent announcement of a new Inspector-General to investigate wrongdoing and allegations of corruption in the Basin and the release of the terms of reference for an ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) inquiry into the Basin’s water market.

Ms Davey denied that the measures were not in response to criticism of the Basin Plan, or water management in general, as shown most recently in Four Corner’s ‘Cash Splash’ investigation of water trading, or the Natural Resources Commission’s draft review of the NSW Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan.

That review found the Darling River below Bourke was put into drought three years early due to the controversial plan of 2012 that allowed irrigators to take the flows that kept the river alive.

“The Inspector General...was already in place for the Northern Basin, and I think that he’s done a really good job getting across the issues,” said Ms Davey.

“That predated the Four Corners (story) and...the Natural Resources Commission report that’s just been handed down.

“Seeing the effectiveness of having that position, I think the state and federal Commonwealth ministers looked at it and said ‘this could be a benefit across the Basin, why limit it to just the North?’

“The ACCC review also predated the Four Corners report.

“I first spoke to the (Federal) Water Minister (David Littleproud) about that in November last year before I became a Senator, highlighting the concerns that had been raised to me as a candidate about the water market.”

Ms Davey said the ACCC inquiry would have a thorough look into water trading practices across the Basin.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal stories about who’s pushing and manipulating the market and I think the only way to find out what’s really going on is to have a thorough investigation, and the ACCC have the powers to do that.

“I want them to have a thorough look at who owns the water but also whether that ownership is harming or helping, particularly agricultural industries. 

“Whether there is actually market manipulation happening or not.

“But if there is, I hope sincerely that they then make recommendations of how we can address the water market rules so that we don’t curtail legitimate trade but that we can prevent market manipulation if it’s occurring.”

On whether a Royal Commission was needed to address all the Basin issues, Ms Davey said her first preference was to look at all the Basin reviews, the recent Productivity Commission report and what would come out of the ACCC inquiry.

Along with the water issues, Ms Davey said she was hoping to discuss the NDIS, employment, infrastructure and investment, tourism, mobile phone blackspots and internet connectivity issues during her visit. 

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