There are growing calls in the MIA for a federal royal commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan, after the eastern states accused South Australia of holding them hostage at a ministerial council meeting on water in Albury on Tuesday.
SA Water and River Murray Minister Ian Hunter says South Australia will not negotiate on the plan until there is a guarantee an extra 450 GL of water will be delivered upstream to his state.
In response, Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said, “South Australia pretty much tried to hold hostage, or blackmail the NSW and Victorian communities.”
NSW Water Minister Niall Blair said communities would be “decimated” by the loss of 450 gigalitres, while MIA water advocates called for more action.
Helen Dalton, Shooters, Farmers and Fishers candidate at the recent Murray by-election, wants a federal Royal Commission.
“Out here we’re all fed-up with water in the Murray-Darling being the political football of people in Canberra and several State Governments who are putting their own interests ahead of communities on the ground,” Ms Dalton said.
“The success of other recent Royal Commissions shows how effective they are to allowing those affected by a key issue to actually have their say and not permit people in power to hide matters from public scrutiny.
Former Griffith mayor and long-time water campaigner Jim McGann said Ms Dalton was “spot on”.
“Irrespective of which government is in power, they’re all in bed together”.
“They are trying to price the irrigators out of business”.
Ms Dalton said a royal commission must be federal.
“The South Australian Government has already called-for a State Royal Commission, but given that they are pursuing a request next week for an additional 450GL from the Murray-Darling Basin, I fear that their proposal will be one-sided”.
The federal government’s commitment to the MBBP, however, was questioned by federal water minister Barnaby Joyce not showing up to the ministerial council meeting in Albury.
The exact reasoning behind the no-show is not clear with Mr Joyce’s office not returning calls to the Fairfax Media.
Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti also backed calls for a federal royal commission, and said NSW Government should withdraw from the Basin Plan if the South Australian continue to refuse to cooperate.
The NSW Government has rejected calls for a royal commission, saying it, “would take years and would cost hundreds of millions of dollars”.
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