Another day, another review announced by government.
The Turnbull government’s plans of a national independent review of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been met with cynicism by business leaders and farmers in the MIA.
Water Minister Barnaby Joyce will write to his state counterparts this week seeking their agreement for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to carry out a basin-wide compliance probe of the state-based regulations that govern water use.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said while the basin plan had delivered significant milestones the claims aired last week by the ABC's Four Corners – that some irrigators had stolen billions of litres of water in the Barwon-Darling region of northern NSW – warranted investigation.
"While the government is confident about COAG's implementation plan 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," he said in a statement on Sunday.
Paul Pierotti, Griffith Business Chamber president, called the announcement a “knee-jerk reaction”.
“We have legislation and a compliance regime in place. Why don’t they enforce the laws rather than keep announcing reviews.”
“We need to put the full list of recommendations of the previous Senate inquiry on the table, get everyone together and work this out”
Veteran farmer John Bonetti has asked “we keep seeing reviews, when are we going to see action?”
The Commonwealth says states must provide the authority with "ready access" to all relevant information and give it the full support of relevant state officials. The review will consider the appropriateness of state laws and the adequacy of water measurement and monitoring.
The authority will report back to COAG by the end of the year. The review will run alongside an independent review led by Ken Matthews, an investigation by the New South Wales ICAC and and audit by the Australian National Audit Office.
Earlier this week Mr Joyce dismissed the ABC’s report as a ploy to strip more water off rural communities, prompting calls from South Australia that he be removed from the portfolio.
Mr Joyce downplayed the impact of the alleged water theft at a media conference in Canberra on Wednesday – likening it cattle rustling – before dismissing the claims further at a gathering at a pub in the Victorian town of Shepparton.
"You know what [the program is] all about – it's about them trying to take water off you, paint a calamity," Mr Joyce said, according to a recording.
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