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Inquiry gagged: Labor

Saturday, 2nd September, 2017

By Daniel Stringer

Labor has slammed the NSW Government’s independent inquiry into allegations of water theft after it was revealed that several National Party members, including local MP Kevin Humphries, were not interviewed for the investigation. 

During yesterday’s budget estimates, questions were put to Rural Water Minister, Niall Blair, who revealed that he had not been approached by Ken Matthews to give evidence. 

Furthermore, the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Simon Smith, refused to say whether Barwon MP Kevin Humphries or former Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, had been interviewed. 

Both politicians held the water portfolio during the period of the allegations. 

Shadow Water Minister, Chris Minns, questioned the independence of the inquiry. 

“The National Party has made sure that the ‘independent’ Matthews’ inquiry is legally unable to look at the conduct of current or previous National Party ministers,” Mr Minns said. 

“They have stitched up the Terms of Reference to remove any reference to their own conduct, making it impossible for Mr Matthews to scrutinise their behaviour,” he said. 

“How is it possible to have an independent inquiry into water theft and political interference without questioning the Minister responsible?” 

Labor MLC, Daniel Mookhey, asked Mr Smith during yesterday’s budget estimates if lying to the Matthews’ inquiry was considered an offence, to which Mr Smith replied that he “doesn’t believe so”. 

Labor was quick to jump on this, with Mr Minns saying it was now impossible for this inquiry to get all the facts. 

“It was revealed today that it isn’t a requirement for those giving evidence to Mr Matthews to tell the truth, making it near impossible to get to the bottom of these murky affairs.

“Only a full judicial review will get to the truth of these serious allegations.”

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